ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orioles reliever Keegan Akin saw DL Hall at the team hotel last night and decided it was an ideal opportunity to counsel the rookie. Offer advice prior to a major league debut today that’s attracting a tremendous amount of hype.
Happens with elite pitching prospects. They don’t sneak into town.
“I’ve already talked to him and helped him through a little bit,” Akin said. “He said it didn’t really hit him last night. I said, ‘It’s going to hit you tomorrow morning when you wake up, or it’s going to hit you when you go to walk on the field and start warming up.’ I just told him, ‘You’ve got to stay calm and keep yourself and your emotions under control, just because that’s what’s going to be the hardest to control, and that can get a little squirrely sometimes on the mound and be all over the place.’
“I told him to just lock it in. Nothing’s different up here. He still has the same stuff as he did coming up through the system, and it’s electric stuff and I’m excited for him to be here. I think he can contribute a lot to this team.”
Jordan Lyles is a former first-round pick with 12 years in the majors. He also can be a resource for Hall.
“Just to slow it down,” Lyles said. “Get into his routine pregame, kind of keep it. Business as normal, and then during the game just kind of slow things down and continue to remind yourself to slow things down. When he gets out there during the game, this next inning is not bigger or more important than the other inning he’s ever pitched. It’s the same process, trying to hit the target, hit the catcher, try to make pitches.
“And lastly, just realize that, yeah, these guys are wearing a major league uniform, but the game is not that much different up here. Guys are just a little more consistent, so don’t overthink things and just be yourself and make pitches.”
And don’t think about being plopped into the middle of a pennant race.
“I wouldn’t assume he would be thinking about that,” Lyles said. “He’s got too much on his mind. He’s been dreaming about this his whole life. I would assume our team situation isn’t going to affect him today. There’s too much nerves and excitement going on for him.”
“I don’t think that’s going to bug him,” Akin said. “I think he’s just excited to be here and go out there and be able to show off his stuff at this level. It’s been a long time coming for him. I know he’s wanted this and wanted to break out of camp, but obviously that didn’t happen.
“I think it’s just, go out there and show everybody what he’s got and what he’s made of. His stuff is electric and he’s going to be doing this for a long time.”
Manager Brandon Hyde will keep checking Hall, making sure that the moment isn’t becoming too big or he’s too amped.
“We’re excited to watch him,” Hyde said. “I think that nerves are definitely going to play a part. I hope to see him be able to control his emotions out there and be able to relax and enjoy this opportunity. We have such high hopes for him. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching him make his debut.”
Hyde didn’t have any information to share about Hall’s usage beyond today.
“I think honestly right now we are game-to-game, series-to-series,” Hyde said. “He’s going to pitch today and we’re going to take it from there. We don’t have any set plan as of right now. We’re just going to watch him pitch today. We’re trying to win every game we can right now, and we’ll go from there.”
Hall is viewed as giving the Orioles a chance to win today, and he allows the other starters to receive more rest.
“We’re in that time of year right now where you want to give your starters an extra day when possible,” Hyde said. “Our starting rotation has been fantastic. I think giving DL this start to push guys back a little bit is a good thing. Allows Spenser (Watkins) to get some rest. So, we’re excited about that. And to have the luxury to call up somebody like this to make a start for us with this kind of arm, it’s good news for us.”
Watkins is available in the bullpen for the next few days, and Hyde said the right-hander will reenter the rotation mid-week. I wrote earlier that he’s expected to start Thursday’s makeup game against the Cubs at Camden Yards.
Asked whether he’d consider a six-man rotation, Hyde said, “Right now we’re trying to win every game. Every game and every series. We are in a different position than we have been in the past few years here, where we’re in the middle of August and we’re in a pennant race. When those things come, you try to put your best team out there on the field. And along with that, you understand you’ve got 50 games to play, so rest is important.
“You’re navigating this last month and a half a little differently than normal.”
The Orioles optioned Nick Vespi again before today, a move necessary to accommodate Hall. There are many factors that go into the choice.
“Nick’s throwing the ball well for us, he’s not somebody you want to see go, but barring no injury, when you’re sending somebody down right now it’s 15 days, and so you’re kind of looking what you schedule looks like the next couple weeks, and who you have in the bullpen and how they match up,” Hyde said.
“We take a lot of things into consideration when we make a move like that, and hopefully we see Nick back soon. Nick’s done a good job for us. It’s not a demotion, it’s just a roster move that we need to make to try to navigate here for the next 50 games.”
Vespi isn’t expected to join the team in Toronto on the taxi squad.
Cedric Mullins is out of the lineup today with the Rays starting left-hander Shane McClanahan. He could play later.
“We’ve got five more days on turf,” Hyde said, “so we try to rotate guys as much as possible.”
Adley Rutschman isn’t catching a day game after a night game.
Tyler Wells played catch in the outfield before batting practice, a sign that the soreness in his left side is disappearing.