BOSTON — Roman Quinn was never going to forget his first major-league start. Just in case, though, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler made it memorable by dropping Quinn into the most challenging right field in baseball.
With the Phillies facing tough Boston Red Sox lefthander David Price in the opener of a two-game interleague series, Kapler put lefty-hitting Nick Williams on the bench and gave Quinn his first start since getting called up Friday from triple-A Lehigh Valley. Kapler, a former Red Sox outfielder, then gave Quinn a brief tutorial on how to play Fenway Park's expansive right field with a deep corner, a short wall, and a sliver of foul ground.
"The only pointers I had is just take a handful of baseballs out there, and this is not rocket science, but throw the ball against every angle and really hug the line right there," Kapler said. "Throw the ball down the right-field line, let it ricochet off that little corner there because it can hug the wall, it can bounce back out."
Right field at Fenway is so unusual that the Red Sox often prioritize defense at the position. For example, part of their attraction to signing Shane Victorino before the 2013 season was that he had been a centerfielder in the past. Mookie Betts is also a rightfielder with centerfield-caliber skills.
Quinn got a quick introduction. Betts led off the bottom of the first inning by hitting a missile that Quinn tracked to the warning track in front of the bullpens and hauled in for an out.
"As soon as I got here, [Kapler] pulled me to the side and told me it's a tricky right field out there," Quinn said before the game. "So, I went out there during early hitting and I took some fly balls in right field and got a couple ground balls. It's pretty different, man. I've never seen that before."
Called up last Friday to bolster the bench with his speed and defensive ability, Quinn never thought he would be starting a game in late July against the Red Sox. Not after missing most of the season's first half with a torn ligament in his right middle finger.
"I did not imagine this, honestly," Quinn said. "I was just trying my best to get my finger healthy and back to normal. I was just pretty excited to get back into games finally and get back in the rhythm of things."
Quinn wasn't the only Phillies outfielder getting used to Fenway's odd dimensions. Leftfielder Rhys Hoskins spent considerable time during batting practice fielding balls off the Green Monster.
Before they were rookie managers at the helm of first-place teams, Kapler and Boston's Alex Cora were teammates with the Red Sox in 2005-06. Even then, Cora said, Kapler was a deep thinker with a mind for analytics.
"He was always thinking out of the box, looking at percentages and all that," Cora said. "Loved to talk the game. He had a good relationship with [former Red Sox catcher] Bill Haselman, so they always talked about it. I don't know about the [future] manager thing, but they were always thinking the game."