During the 2017 draft nearly three weeks ago, the Orioles weren’t sure they’d have the chance to select DL Hall, one of their top-rated left-handed pitchers, at No. 21.
Once he fell to them, the Georgia high schooler then had to decide whether to turn professional or maintain his commitment to Florida State.
Hall, 18, and the Orioles made their match official when the team announced that he signed his rookie contract before Friday’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
He received a signing bonus of “about $3 million,” according to an industry source, which is slightly above the $2.892 million slot for the No. 21 overall selection.
“Florida State, they’ve been my favorite team since I was a little kid, so it was a tough decision, definitely, because I was looking forward to college,” Hall said. “But I think Baltimore has a lot to offer, and I’m excited about it.”
As Hall spoke with reporters wearing an Orioles hat and a No. 17 jersey with his last name on the back, he said he’d never been to Baltimore or Camden Yards. The Orioles scouts, however, expect he’ll develop into a starter at the venue in a few years.
For now, Orioles scouting director Gary Rajsich said Hall will report to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in Sarasota, Fla., throwing bullpen sessions to regain the competitive form that helped him post a 1.36 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings for Valdosta High in Georgia this past season.
Hall, the first prep pitcher the Orioles have taken in the first round since Hunter Harvey in 2013, said he hasn’t pitched in a game since the second round of the state playoffs about two months ago.
“I’ve been throwing since then,” Hall said, “but I’m excited to get back on the mound and compete.”
After drafting high school pitchers such as Harvey and Dylan Bundy in 2011, the Orioles have often limited their pitching repertoire to manage injuries and overuse.
Rajsich lauded Hall’s fastball command and repertoire of off-speed pitches, but didn’t elaborate on the newest Orioles prospect’s development plan.
“He has a fast, loose and free power arm,” Rajsich said. “He has a very athletic delivery.”
Britton perfect in rehab
Making his penultimate appearance on his seven-outing minor league rehabilitation assignment, Orioles closer Zach Britton threw a perfect ninth inning for High-A Frederick on Friday night.
Britton needed just 11 pitches to retire the Lynchburg Hillcats in order, inducing two groundouts and then striking out the final batter he faced.
The outing was the second part of back-to-back outings for Britton, a significant hurdle in his rehab from a left forearm strain that has limited him to just nine major league innings this season.
Britton’s final scheduled rehab outing will be a one-inning appearance for Triple-A Norfolk on Monday.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter declined to estimate when Chris Davis could return from the oblique injury he suffered June 12 against the Chicago White Sox, but said the first baseman is making progress in his rehabilitation.
Before Friday’s game, Showalter said he asked Davis whether he might return soon after the All-Star break.
“And he goes, ‘I was hoping to make it before the break,’” Showalter said. “So that’s at least good he’s thinking that way and he’s feeling better.”
Showalter doesn’t expect that Davis will return within the nine days remaining before the break, but said he’s “trying to push for a little more” despite not having any baseball activities planned.
All-Star case for Mancini
Showalter joked before Friday’s game that he’d choose seven of his players to play in the upcoming All-Star Game to stay loyal to the clubhouse.
While the Orioles manager understands his wish isn’t realistic, he said he believes four of his players are worthy of the honor when All-Star rosters are announced Sunday.
Showalter wouldn’t reveal his choices — and none of the Orioles are likely to receive an automatic starting spot based on fan balloting — but he made a case for rookie first baseman-outfielder Trey Mancini.
“He’s one of the guys they’re considering, I’m sure,” Showalter said.
The 25-year-old Mancini, whose playing time often depended on pitching matchups earlier in the season, is three at-bats shy of the minimum qualification to be ranked in offensive categories.
But among players with at least 150 at bats, Mancini’s .350 average against right-handed pitching entering Friday ranked first in the American League and second in the majors, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner (.368).
Through 64 games this season, Mancini flashed his power with a .318 batting average, 14 home runs and 43 RBIs.
“You can read between the lines,” Showalter said. “He’s having a good year. Of course he should be considered.
“That’s not a big revelation. Of course he’s one of the four.”
Castillo returns to lineup
When Welington Castillo woke up Friday morning, he wasn’t sure how his left knee would feel.
At Rogers Centre on Thursday, Castillo, in cleats, slipped on the concrete while walking to warm up pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen. He missed the game with a sprained knee.
But on Friday before the Orioles faced the Rays, Castillo said his knee felt like “a one” with little residual pain on a scale of one to 10, and he returned to the lineup to catch for starter Chris Tillman.
“Honestly, it scared me a lot yesterday when it happened,” Castillo said. “It was feeling like when you would sprain an ankle, something like that. But when I woke up, [it was] feeling good.”
After Castillo suffered a testicular injury earlier this season, he said it was frustrating to miss time with a “simple” injury off the field.
Showalter didn’t witness the incident, but he said Friday that others told him it was “a pretty ugly fall.”
Showalter said he was not too worried about the effects on Castillo’s long-term availability because the catcher, in uniform, told the staff in the dugout during the second inning Thursday that he felt he could play if needed.
“I think it scared him,” Showalter said, “more than anything.”
Around the horn
Showalter said pitcher Mike Wright is nearing a return from right shoulder bursitis that has kept him on the disabled list since mid-June. “He’s ready to start throwing," Showalter said. "That’s moving along well.” … The Orioles recalled pitcher Miguel Castro from Double-A Bowie before Friday’s game after pitcher Stefan Crichton was placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. Castro entered Friday with a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings out of the Orioles bullpen this season.