BALTIMORE—It’s been more than six years since DL Hall was the Orioles’ top draft choice in 2017. He’s thrown just 17 2/3 innings since then. Hall was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday when closer Félix Bautista went to the injured list with an elbow injury, and Hall is hoping to finally stay in the major leagues.
“This is an awesome group of guys, something that everybody wants to be a part of,” Hall said. “Everybody that’s down there wants to be here, be a part of it, so to get this opportunity, I’m thankful and super blessed to be here with these guys.”
Despite never pitching more than 94 2/3 innings in any professional season, the Orioles still look at the 24-year-old left-hander as a starter. That’s not what he’ll be doing for the Orioles.
Last year, Hall was called up on September 1st and used as a reliever for the rest of the season. Hall made one major league start on August 13th, 2022 at Tampa Bay and was returned to Norfolk immediately afterward.
This year, Hall, who had a back injury that prevented a full spring training, began the season as a starter. But by mid-June the Orioles decided to give him a pause and sent him to Sarasota for training.
“It was a lot of working out and rehabbing to get the stability back in the legs and back and just really crushing the weight room,” Hall said. “It was something I couldn’t do when I was hurt. I couldn’t lift weights. I was just trying to pitch at the beginning of the year without lifting. I didn’t really have my strength. I just focused on getting stronger down there and moving faster down there.”
Hall pitched twice in the Florida Complex League before returning to the Tides, where he made seven relief appearances.
Overall, he was 2-2 with a 4.02 earned-run average, but he says it was a good, growing year.
“I think was a blessing in disguise,” Hall said. “My offspeed [use] has doubled this year compared to years past, and I think I kind of was forced to without having the velo, so it was great for me.”
Early in the season, his velocity was down and now it’s back to where it should be.
“It’s probably one of the tougher things that I’ve ever dealt with,” Hall said. “I’ve always been a guy who always throws hard and to not have that was like a totally different style of pitching, definitely made it a little tougher.”
On Saturday night, Hall relieved Jacob Webb in the eighth inning with runners on first and second and none out. Nolan Jones laid down a perfect bunt, loading the bases. Brendan Rodgers hit into a double play, with a run scoring.
“I would have much rather went with the strikeout and then the groundball double play,” Hall said. “Trying to keep that runner from scoring for Webby. Sometimes it doesn’t play out like that. I was just happy to get out of there with us still in the lead.”
He was recalled as the 27th man for a doubleheader in Detroit in April, and threw three innings, his only other big league appearance this season. His return to Oriole Park came in front of a sold-out stadium, but Hall wasn’t nervous.
“I wouldn’t say butterflies,” he said. “I would say it was more excitement. I felt like I had been here before. I was honestly trying to take it all in. It was unbelievable to be out there in front of that crowd.”
Last year, Hall was new to relieving, and manager Brandon Hyde didn’t use him on consecutive days, and only once on one day’s rest.
“I’m hoping to be able to use him more often,” Hyde said. “Last year was a little bit different. He was starting. We were transitioning him into a bullpen situation for help in September. He was at an innings limit situation.
“He’s more primed to be out of the ‘pen now. Even though he hasn’t had a ton of appearances, not like last night where he didn’t throw that much. He feels good today, just like we do with everybody. I think he’s more ready to pitch out of the bullpen last year than he was last.”
Hall was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA with a save in 10 relief appearances, and he was hoping to get a chance to be a starter before the back injury.
“It’s definitely been a huge challenge mentally, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my career,” Hall said. “With getting a taste of it last year and expecting to be a big part of it this year … don’t want to say wasted but missed a lot of this year due to just not being to get to myself. I worked my tail off just to get back here. It definitely taught me a lot about perseverance and not giving in around here at a really crucial part so it’s a blessing and looking forward to helping.”
Hall’s fine with being in the bullpen for now, but still wants to start.
“I’m definitely excited just to be healthy again,” Hall said. “I think with the health and the velo back, I’m definitely excited to give starting another go now that I’m myself again.”
His career has been interrupted so many times by injuries. It was hoped that he and Grayson Rodriguez, who was drafted first a year later, would have been firmly in the Orioles’ rotation by now.
“Everybody has a different path to get here,” Hall said. “I’ve missed a lot of this year. I’ve missed a lot of time in years past, but I’m here now and ready to help them win now.”
With him are lots of familiar faces — Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman and Jordan Westburg.
“Everybody here that I came up with, Gunnar, Westy. It’s incredible to see now that we’re all up here together and sharing a clubhouse with Grayson,” he said. “We’re close, so it’s been awesome.”
Hyde’s hoping he can now be a mainstay for years to come.
“When guys have such big arms like him and Grayson, these guys can throw in the upper 90s,” Hyde said. “I’ve talked about Grayson. They can overpower people in the minor leagues. The minor league numbers can look a certain way because they can outstuff people. Here, it’s just way different … These guys are used to seeing big stuff. It’s all about command with DL. He’s definitely got the pitch mix. He’s got the velocity. He’s got life to his fastball. He’s got a good breaking ball.
“It’s about being able to work ahead of hitters with confidence. We saw glimpses of that last September. I thought he did a great job last night, and I don’t think we’ve closed the door on what his future looks like … but this year, right now, he’s going to try to help us out in the bullpen. We hope he can be a guy for us back there.”