When DL Hall made his 2022 spring training debut, a one-round appearance that marked his return from injury, it was the radar gun that caught the most attention. The southpaw took the mound for the first time in a game since his mid-season hiatus the previous year and pumped in triple figures with his fastball.
That’s always been the catchy part of Hall’s repertoire on the mound, and perhaps it’s that high speed that encourages some viewers to ponder a future coming out of the bullpen at the major league level rather than in as a starting pitcher.
But focusing on that high-velocity fastball — while alluring — misses the full picture of Hall, the 23-year-old who ranks third among prospects in the Orioles organization, according to Baseball America.
“I’m not just a 100 mph fastpitch guy,” Hall said. “I can throw other stuff too. It’s something I’ll keep proving – and improving – and keep trying to order all four of them.
It’s his shift, the one he’s been working to master on the alternative workout site in 2020. It’s his slider, the sweeping motion that draws many puffs. It’s his curveball, which he’s still tinkering with to perfect it as a differentiator with a 12-6 o’clock break.
Those pitches are why Hall believes he can enter the Orioles rotation, a four-pitch arsenal that can be set up for strikes, setting him apart from other hard-pitch pitchers with his variability.
“To get that real breaking ball and to have that change, I think both have been huge leaps for me,” Hall said, “and I think that’s a big part of why I found some success.”
On Tuesday, Hall made his Triple-A level debut for the Norfolk Tides. His outing – one run allowed on 53 pitches over three innings – was not what he expected. He had hoped to go deeper into the game, continuing a buildup since returning from the stress reaction in his left elbow that ended his 2021 season.
But the organization chose to play it safe with Hall. He had traveled extensively the previous day, part of a rapid ascent to Triple-A. He took his first steps with High-A Aberdeen at the end of April. The following week he started for Double-A Bowie. And then five days later – with a trip to Nashville in the mix to join the tides – he took the mound on Tuesday at Harbor Park in Norfolk.
His body did not feel well. He had returned from Nashville to Washington, D.C., then picked up his car and driven four hours south. But the whirlwind didn’t bother him, because it was a step in the right direction.
“It was crazy, but it was fun,” Hall said. “Every step you take to get closer to Baltimore is a good thing.”
Hall has spent much of the previous two seasons developing his switch, starting at the 2020 alternate site when the coronavirus pandemic canceled the minor league season. In 2021, the Valdosta, GA native felt comfortable with the court, but he only had a chance to display it in 31 2/3 innings before being shut down.
So this year, Hall is keen to show what change can bring, especially against right-handed hitters. He couples it with a slider and a curveball, though he’s still fine-tuning how his curveball looks out of his hand.
This is not an arm lunge change. Instead, by altering his hand positioning, he adds more depth to the pitch to make it a 12-6 drop, contrasting with his sweeping slider. This gives him a four-pitch arsenal to keep hitters off balance multiple times throughout the drive.
“I don’t care if I’m throwing 100 fastballs this game or 100 substitutions,” Hall said. “If I get the guys out, that’s all I care about.”
So for all the attention on his high-velocity fastball, Hall is so much more than that. And it’s his mastery of all four courts that can translate to success as a major league starter in the near future.