ST. PETERSBURG -- After having his eyes on the prize for five years, DL Hall is finally getting his shot.
And now that’s clear: A starter for one of the biggest surprise teams in baseball.
“It's awesome. I'm just excited to see the look on his face when he's experiencing everything for the first time,” batterymate Adley Rutschman said. “I'm really excited to see him. Our group chat, it's been going off with him. It's been fun.”
The arrival of Hall, Baltimore’s first-round Draft pick in 2017 and its second-best pitching prospect behind Grayson Rodriguez, will mark another promising young Oriole breaking the seal of farmhand status and making it to the Majors this year. In the macro view, it’s another step in the rebuilding phase, one that has seen the current club in contention for a Wild Card spot amid a postseason race that Hall now rejuvenates.
Hall was brought into the organization before the current regime of executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. Across his Orioles tenure, bitten by injuries and command issues, Hall has seen his prospect stock fluctuate. Internally, the club had believed the left-hander would have a chance to make an impact as soon as this summer, wanting to see a clean bill of health and success before leaning on him to do so. His 2022 to date -- filled with highs and some struggles -- appears to have made the time right.
In 2021, Hall was limited to just 31 2/3 innings due to a stress reaction in his left elbow. Such an injury has kept the Orioles extremely cognizant of his innings and workload in ’22. Hall was slow-played through extended spring training and then pitched for two different levels before arriving at Triple-A for the first time in May. In 18 starts since then, Hall has posted a 4.76 ERA, albeit with 114 strikeouts against 44 walks in just 70 innings -- a strikeout rate of roughly 36 percent.
It stands to reason that the Orioles will err on the side of caution with Hall. Elias has said that the club’s approach for Hall and the injured Rodriguez this season has been implemented with the goal of taking the reins fully off each in 2023. Hall now gets the chance to build innings while flashing his tantalizing repertoire, including a 99-plus-mph fastball, in the big leagues.
The 2022 Orioles season has been marked by the arrival of prospects. Excitement first grew with Kyle Bradish. Then came Rutschman, the headliner of the top-rated farm system. Both were joined by Kyle Stowers for a brief cameo in Toronto. Without adding at the Trade Deadline, Elias said that reinforcements were expected to come from within.
And Hall’s impending arrival signals life in that statement.
Rodriguez was largely expected to be the next callup, elevating a rotation that would one day be joined by Hall. But Rodriguez’s season has ultimately been derailed by a right lat strain that initially cast doubt on his return to the mound this year -- whether in Baltimore or the Minors -- but appears more promising by the day.
Until then, it’ll be up to Hall to keep the seat warm in Baltimore.
“He's a competitor,” Rutschman said. “I don't know how he's going to perform [Saturday], but I know he's going to bring his best. He's a phenomenal, phenomenal pitcher with tremendous stuff, and I have all the confidence in the world that he's going to do great.”