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Quinn's talent, athleticism has Phils' attention

MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Orioles All-Star Adam Jones crushed the ball, absolutely crushed it, to dead center field. If it didn't carry over the fence, it was good for an easy double. Maybe even a triple or inside-the-park home run.

Except that Phillies center fielder Roman Quinn was on the case. The ball was over his head but he raced back onto the warning track, reached up and made a spectacular catch. Jones, by then on his way to second, shook his head in disbelief.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Orioles All-Star Adam Jones crushed the ball, absolutely crushed it, to dead center field. If it didn't carry over the fence, it was good for an easy double. Maybe even a triple or inside-the-park home run.

Except that Phillies center fielder Roman Quinn was on the case. The ball was over his head but he raced back onto the warning track, reached up and made a spectacular catch. Jones, by then on his way to second, shook his head in disbelief.

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That was Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla.

The Phillies were losing to the Braves in the seventh inning before constructing a two-out rally to win. Quinn was right in the middle of it with a key double. Before the day was over he also walked twice, stole a base and scored two runs.

That was Saturday at Spectrum Field in Clearwater.

Tweet from @Phillies: 2/3 of Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Roman Quinn. pic.twitter.com/HUGWcrIBXI

None of this comes as a surprise, by the way. When the baseball people talk about the speedy 23-year-old switch-hitter, they use words like "dynamic" and "game-changing." He showed what he could do after making his Major League debut last September, scoring 10 runs and stealing five bases in 15 games.

General manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin both acknowledge that Quinn made a positive impact, that the Phillies were a better team when he was in the lineup.

"He has the ability to create runs with his legs -- whether it's bunt hits, infield singles, hustle doubles, stolen bases, scoring from first on balls in the gap. He can do all those things," Klentak said. "So we love his ability, no question about it."

Then the GM gave center fielder Odubel Herrera a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension and signed veteran free agents Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to play the corners. Baseball can be an unpredictable game but, on paper, those moves point to Quinn opening the season wearing the uniform of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

For the record, Quinn says he had no problem with the team's decision to add two more experienced bats to the lineup, even though it appears to block his path to the Major Leagues.

"I think those were good moves that they made," he said. "Howie and Michael are really good hitters. So I'm just trying to learn from those guys and pick their brains a little bit. I talk to Howie every day about the game, about his approach at the plate. I more just watch what Saunders is doing. And it helps me out a lot."

It seems that there are at least three reasons why the Phillies' brain trust decided during the offseason to not to simply pencil Quinn into the lineup and see what he could do on a regular basis.

First, Saunders was still available in January.

"We viewed that as an opportunity we didn't want to pass by," Klentak explained. "Michael Saunders has a chance to be a really good player. We signed two corner outfielders to one-year contracts. We'll see what happens, but even if that means Roman Quinn spends part or most of this year at Triple-A, developmentally that's a perfectly acceptable outcome. Let's let him go there and make us, prove that we were wrong, that we made a mistake. And if that happens, we'll be OK with that."

It's worth pointing out that the Phillies went into Spring Training last year with what seemed like a surplus of outfielders. By the end of camp, Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche were on the disabled list and non-roster invitee Cedric Hunter was the Opening Day left fielder.

Second, Quinn has never played more than 88 games in any of his five Minor League seasons, having been sidelined by a strained oblique, a strained quad, a fractured wrist and a ruptured Achilles.

"I'm very determined to stay healthy. Actually, that's my biggest goal this year," he said. "To stay healthy the full season and try to do something every day where I can maintain my strength, my legs, my whole body."

Finally, Quinn has never had an at-bat at the Triple-A level.

"He's got things to improve on and one of those is cutting down on his swing at times. Especially with two strikes. A guy like that needs to put the ball in play more," Mackanin said. "Especially with two strikes. Because a guy like that can beat out a little chopper anywhere in the infield.

"He's fun to watch. When he makes the adjustments he needs to make as a hitter, he's going to be something."

Said Quinn: "I think any type of Triple-A experience will help me. I've never been in that league, don't know how they play there. But we'll see how it goes. I'm looking forward to it."

The Phillies still believe that Quinn can help them win a lot of games. Just maybe not before the All-Star break this year.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

Philadelphia Phillies