SARASOTA, Fla. – The wave of injury news yesterday that dampened an otherwise energetic atmosphere surrounding the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and a return to spring training normalcy after three years of chaos, didn’t carry DL Hall out of the Orioles’ opening day plans.
Not in Hall’s mind, anyway.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed that Hall began experiencing soreness in his lower right lumbar area about three weeks ago, putting the rookie behind other pitchers in camp. Not as serious as Dillon Tate’s strained right flexor/forearm that could cost him the first month of the season. Perhaps not as threatening as Félix Bautista’s rehab on his left knee and work to strengthen his right shoulder that might limit his innings to where he can’t break camp with the team. But a red flag nonetheless when it’s raised above one of the top pitching prospects.
Hall said this morning that he felt “some minor discomfort” in his lower back. “Nothing too crazy.”
“Obviously, I’m already on the way back up,” he said. “I’ve already started back throwing and everything. I just shut down for a couple weeks. I’m good to go now.”
Hall is viewed by the Orioles as a starter, his 10 relief appearances late last season arranged to get him acclimated to the majors, control his innings and assist in the wild card race. A return to the rotation in 2023 always was part of the plan.
They expressed it to Hall and the media.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to play out by the end of spring,” he said. “You’ve got to keep building up and try to stay healthy.”
One subtraction in the bullpen, with the possibility of a second, could entice the Orioles to keep Hall in a relief role. But Elias noted yesterday how it isn’t that simple.
“I think it depends on the guy,” he said. “I think one thing that we’re going to have to be mindful of is if one of our better starting pitchers doesn’t make the opening day rotation of five, and would be a clear help out of the bullpen, do we want to short-change that guy’s starting career or risk jeopardizing it by compressing them into a bullpen role just to help the early season 2023 team when they could be continuing their development as a starting pitcher.
“I think we’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it because those are not easy decisions and they’re best made with the context of everything else going on. But I think that’s something to keep in mind. We won’t just take some of our best starters and turn them into relievers just for the short term. Or at least, we won’t do it without being thoughtful about it.”
Elias didn’t mention anyone by name, including Hall, but a clear message was delivered.
Hall wouldn’t say whether he’d rather make the club in any role or remain a starter, but how he views himself was confirmed.
“I can’t really go one way or the other,” he said. “Whatever they decide is what I’ll do, and I’m going to perform no matter where I go and give myself the best chance to get out there and help the team.”
Does Hall see himself as a starter?
“Yeah,” he replied, “I’m gonna be a starter.”
* John Means hasn’t received confirmation that he’s throwing off a half mound Monday morning. He’s checking on it.
* Former major league outfielder Mike Cameron is in camp to visit his son Daz, an outfielder who’s here as a non-roster invite.
Mike sat at Daz’s locker until he returned to the clubhouse. They shook hands and embraced.