DL Hall got his fastball back midsummer and later had the results to prove it

There must have been times this summer when left-hander Dayton Lane Hall, once a highly-ranked Orioles pitching prospect, felt he might not make a return to the majors this year. Much less be on a playoff roster and pitch well in the postseason.

But his five-plus weeks spent in Florida in midsummer to build arm strength and get his fastball velocity back in the final analysis were five truly productive weeks for Hall.

He began this year at Triple-A Norfolk and was the 27th man on the O’s roster for a doubleheader April 29 versus Detroit. But after that game, his next big league appearance would be nearly four months away. A back injury that limited him during spring training was such that he never fully regained his fastball velocity or strength. The Orioles sent him to Florida to find both. And while he was out of sight, out of mind for a while there, he never stopped working and always had pitching in key games late this year for the Orioles as a motivator.

He was in Florida from mid-June to early August and finally returned to pitch in games again July 25 in the Florida Complex League. Then he rejoined Triple-A on Aug. 5 and three weeks later was back with the Orioles. 

“It was a lot of working out and rehabbing,” he said of his time in Sarasota. “Just trying to get the stability back in my legs and back and just really crushing the weight room. It was something I couldn’t do when I was hurt. Couldn’t lift weights. I was trying to pitch at the beginning of the year without lifting and didn’t really have my strength. So I just focused on getting stronger down there.

“I think (it was about) just really getting my feet up under me. I started behind the eight ball in spring training because of my back. Didn’t lift weights, couldn’t run. So my athleticism was just kind of being hidden because I couldn’t do a whole lot. Just needed to be in the weight room, start my running and start moving fast again.”

Late in the year, Hall was throwing and throwing well for the Orioles. For the year in the majors, his ERA was 3.26 with a 1.190 WHIP in 19 1/3 innings. In his last seven regular season games, he pitched 7 1/3 innings allowing three hits and one unearned run. Then he added 3 1/3 scoreless in two playoff outings versus Texas.

So over his last nine games counting the playoffs, he pitched 10 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and one unearned run with one walk and 13 strikeouts. Opponents batters hit .108 (4-for-37) off him.

At 25 years, 18 days old, Hall became the youngest O's left-handed pitcher to appear in a postseason game since Ross Grimsley (24-275) on Oct. 9, 1974 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against Oakland.

The player that between 2018 and 2023 was ranked among the Orioles' top five prospects and was in the top 100 several times was living up to the hype this time around.

Now we wait to find out if the Orioles will keep him in the bullpen or move him back to the rotation. Either way, manager Brandon Hyde indicated Hall’s position on the roster is pretty secure during his recent season-ending press conference.

“We haven’t even discussed DL’s role for next year,” Hyde said. “I’m just so excited about how he threw the ball in September and how he threw the ball on the national stage. Whatever we decide to do with him, he’s going to be a huge part of our team next year. That was an unbelievable performance the two games he pitched in the postseason. And he wasn’t really stretched out to those two-type innings either. Just the way it fell and he was just fantastic. Down the stretch and in the postseason, he showed everybody the kind of pitcher we’ve been waiting for and he’s going to be a big impact for us going forward.”

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias would not tip his hand on Hall’s role moving forward.

“I’m going to plead the fifth again and not talk about specifics of the roster for the offseason,” he said. "Both of those guys (Hall and Tyler Wells) had difficult years.”

Difficult at times yes, but Elias was very pleased with how well both ended the year throwing the ball for the Orioles.

“DL, all the injuries and going to Florida and just being off the grid and just getting it all together at the exact perfect moment when we needed him most, is one of the many things I am very proud of with this group of guys,” he said.

When Hall was recalled Aug. 26 to replace Félix Bautista on the roster, he pitched in the game that night, throwing a scoreless inning versus Colorado. He threw two pitches just south of 99 mph. Yep, the velo was back.

And late in the year, the command was on point, too, and that proved to be quite a solid combo for the kid from Valdosta, Ga., who the club selected with the No. 21 pick in the 2017 draft.

Should Hall start again? Well it would be nice to have another lefty rotation candidate, not to mention one with such talent and at least three quality pitches. Hall got a 30.2 percent whiff rate this year on his fastball, 31.0 on his slider and 36.4 on his changeup.

For Hall, 2023 was a year where he was sort of almost forgotten in midsummer and ended with him excelling on the big stage of the playoffs.

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