Baltimore Sun

DL Hall’s ‘good first step’ in his spring debut

Hitters have been displaying their power up the middle

- By Jacob Calvin Meyer

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The numbers don’t necessaril­y show it, but DL Hall was sharp in his 2023 spring training debut Monday.

Hall, the Orioles’ No. 2 pitching prospect, allowed three hits and three runs (one earned) in 1 ⅔ innings against the Philadelph­ia Phillies. But Hall was sharp until his defense let him down in his second inning, displaying the elite stuff that made him a first-round selection in 2017 and a consensus top-100 prospect.

“That was the highlight of the day for me, seeing DL Hall out there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought he threw the ball outstandin­g. We didn’t make a couple plays there, he could’ve had an easy two innings. He had really good stuff, love the changeup and the breaking balls. It was just great to see him out there.”

The 24-year-old left-hander struck out four of the first six batters he faced — two on fastballs and one apiece on a changeup and a curveball — and tallied 10 swings and misses.

“Just good to toe the rubber again, so can’t complain,” Hall said. “My changeup was right where I wanted it to be. Threw some good breaking balls as well.”

After coming on in the sixth inning and retiring the Phillies in order, he gave up three hits in the seventh, including a fly ball double down the left field line that should have been caught by minor league extra Reed Trimble, and a 65.8 mph bloop single. First baseman Curtis Terry also made an error in the inning.

“I thought he had all of his stuff [working] well,” Hyde said. “Life to his fastball, tempo was great. He looked like he hadn’t missed much time.”

His velocity was perhaps the only thing not completely there, which is expected considerin­g it’s his first outing after a delayed start to camp due to a lower back injury. While the 43 pitches he threw — 28 for strikes — were just one more than he tossed in his simulated game, Hall said he felt himself getting fatigued at the end of his outing. He allowed an RBI single off the wall — the only hard-hit ball against him — to his final batter.

“Definitely started to wear down,” Hall said. “It’s obviously a little bit different level of energy you’re having to use in a live game situation. So I definitely felt like I got a little tired, but that’s part of the build-up.”

Hall was slated to enter spring training as one of 12 pitchers competing for the starting rotation, but he won’t be ramped up enough to break camp as a big league starter. The choices for the Orioles are to either have him in their bullpen — where he ended the 2022 campaign — or send him to Triple-A.

“We’re going to continue to lengthen him out, and today was a good first step,” Hyde said.

Center field pop

The Orioles scored five or more runs in 16 straight Grapefruit League games entering Monday. But Hyde said the way his team has hit — specifical­ly the quality of at-bats — the past several days has “definitely improved.”

Evidence in recent days is the up-the-middle power the Orioles, mostly their young prospects, displayed. Four of the Orioles’ top young players — Jordan Westburg, Colton Cowser, Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad — went deep to center field over the weekend, which Hyde said exemplifie­s how well they’re seeing the ball.

“They all have great middle-of-the-field approaches,” Hyde said. “That’s what we’re looking for and that’s what we preach. They have the power to hit the ball out the opposite field, too. They’re swinging the bat well right now.”

Westburg and Rutschman’s homers narrowly cleared the center field fence, while Cowser and Kjerstad’s blasts were no-doubters. Cowser’s traveled 476 feet — a distance that would have made it the third-longest home run not hit in thin-aired Colorado last season; Kjerstad’s wasn’t measured because Ed Smith Stadium doesn’t have Statcast, but it was perhaps his deepest of the spring.

“Not too much of a focus,” Kjerstad said Sunday about whether his approach is to hit the ball up the middle. “Probably just the right pitch, right time, right swing for a lot of the hitters. A lot of guys around here have really good power to all parts of the field. You’ve been seeing that from a lot of guys.”

On Monday, Westburg tripled to right-center field, Gunnar Henderson clobbered a 417-foot homer to right field and Kjerstad doubled to right field twice.

“If you look at our young guys, they’re athletic, strong, physical, fast,” Hyde said. “They have power to all fields. Really these last couple weeks have really shown what kind of hitters that they are and what kind of hitters they can be.”

Bradish blitzed

Also in the 14-6 loss to the Phillies, starter Kyle Bradish was blitzed for nine hits and nine runs in 2 ⅓ innings. The disastrous outing followed four straight sharp ones for Bradish, who had surrendere­d just four hits and two runs in his first nine innings this spring. He allowed seven batted balls 95 mph or harder.

“In the moment, this one sucks,” Bradish said. “Don’t want to have an outing like this ever, let alone this close to season, but based off my performanc­e earlier on in the spring, I don’t think this is an indicator of anything. It’s just one of those days.”

After retiring the side in order in the first,

Bradish allowed the first five batters of the second to reach base, giving up five runs before being pulled with two outs. He came back out to start the third (starting pitchers can reenter in the Grapefruit League), but he gave up four straight hits after getting two outs.

Bradish is one of nine pitchers remaining in the starting rotation competitio­n, although he’s in the group of five arms with inside tracks to those spots.

“He didn’t have his command today,” Hyde said. “Looked like a lot of fastballs up, didn’t really have much of a feel for his breaking ball. Hopefully, we’ll flush that one and have a good next one.”

Félix Bautista struggled with command in his third outing this spring, walking three batters and recording just two outs. He was pulled with the bases loaded after throwing 24 pitches.

“He had kind of a spring training outing,” Hyde said. “He hasn’t been out there much, and a lot of guys have those types of outings.”

 ?? MERTON FERRON/BALTIMORE SUN KARL ?? Orioles left-hander DL Hall made his 2023 spring debut Monday, pitching in relief against the Philadelph­ia Phillies. Hall had a slow start to spring training with a lower back injury.
MERTON FERRON/BALTIMORE SUN KARL Orioles left-hander DL Hall made his 2023 spring debut Monday, pitching in relief against the Philadelph­ia Phillies. Hall had a slow start to spring training with a lower back injury.

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