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Baltimore Orioles

‘All the hype is warranted’: Orioles prospect DL Hall out to show he’s in control in 2022

Sarasota, Fla. — DL Hall is tired of hearing about his command.

A left-handed pitcher with a dynamic repertoire, Hall, 23, is the highest-ranked prospect on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. Coming off a stress reaction in his pitching elbow — which he said was a small break that has since fully healed — Hall hasn’t stacked up a lot of innings in the minor leagues. But that doesn’t mean he’s far from arriving in Baltimore.

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“I think if he’s throwing strikes, he’s pretty close to big league ready,” Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said last week. “We may see this guy in the big leagues this year, and we may see him quick if it’s the right thing to do.”

Hall threw only 31 ⅔ innings for Double-A Bowie in 2021 before the elbow injury ended his season, but he put up impressive numbers over his seven starts, striking out 43.8% of batters he faced with a 60.4% groundball rate and 3.13 ERA. His walk rate of 12.5% was an improvement from what he put up in minor league baseball’s previous season in 2019, but still one of the highest in Baltimore’s system among pitchers who made at least five starts.

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Hall agreed with Elias’ assessment of how close he is to the majors. But the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect believes what separates him from getting there is health, not command.

“It gets tiring hearing about throwing strikes because I don’t think that that’s something that I struggle with,” Hall said. “I think that I chase strikeouts more than walking people. I think that if I didn’t chase strikeouts as much, then I wouldn’t walk as many.

“I think it’s an easier fix than people think, just to get in the zone. But I’ll show that.”

Hall said he challenges himself in games, with a focus on throwing pitches that will get major league hitters out rather than the minor league ones he’s facing. Whereas he feels other minor league pitchers might choose a pitch they know they can throw for a strike in certain situations, Hall said he sees those moments as opportunities to grow, occasionally resulting in walks.

“I would rather take that learning experience than just be comfortable,” he said.

Coming off the injury, he spent this offseason fine-tuning his body and mechanics, focused on location rather than velocity. Hall was supposed to come to Florida in January with other players who had been hurt the year before, but he was unable to participate in team activities during Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout because he was added to the 40-man roster in November.

As the work stoppage stretched into March, Hall remained at home as nonroster minor leaguers arrived for their camp. That made the group text he shares with catcher Adley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the two prospects in the system ranked ahead of him, unbearable.

“They would send pictures and text messages and stuff down here, ‘Who wants to go to dinner, blah, blah, blah,’” Hall said. “And I’m like, ‘God, I wish I wasn’t sitting here at the house.’ Grayson would always send me a text like, ‘Sit your [butt] back on the couch.’”

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With Hall being the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2017 and Rodriguez their top selection a year later, the two pitchers have had a competitive friendship, one that blossomed when they spent 2020 at the alternate training site together.

“He’s a dog,” said Rodriguez, baseball’s top pitching prospect. “He’s a competitor. I love to be around somebody that’s gonna make me better, and that’s him. We love to go at it and compete, whether it be who has more strikeouts in a week, in a game or who’s throwing the hardest or whatever. We have little competitions, we go back and forth with each other, but he’s just an animal.”

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The two often discuss the possibility of sharing a rotation in Baltimore, which could be the case as soon as this summer. Rodriguez made his Grapefruit League debut Monday, while Hall’s work in camp thus far has come on the Ed Smith Stadium backfields. During a bullpen last week, he was still working to get a feel for his fastball, with the offering having an atypical cutting movement.

“It’s nasty, but it’s not on purpose,” Hall said later with a laugh, “so I can’t do that.”

The batters who faced him in a live batting practice session afterward were impressed, as was Brett Cumberland, who caught him. Hall being a left-handed starter with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and can climb above that makes him unique, Cumberland said. But his willingness to throw his other pitches in any count also explains why he rose on a handful of prospect lists this offseason despite his limited time on the field in 2021.

“I think all the hype is warranted,” infielder Jahmai Jones said.

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That’s what Hall is out to show this season, whether it starts back in Double-A Bowie or with Triple-A Norfolk. He’s excited to finally have the chance to build on last season.

“I definitely feel like I showed the real me,” Hall said. “I felt like the year before that, in 2019, the last season that we had played, my walks were high and I feel like I didn’t really show the true DL Hall on the mound. I felt like last year I was really showing myself, and it just had to get cut short.

“I think I’m ready to take on the next challenge, whatever that is.”


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