Hall healthy again but unlikely to be in Opening Day rotation

LAKELAND, Fla. – DL Hall arrived inside the Orioles clubhouse this morning wearing a cap that covered his buzz cut. And that concluded the hair portion of his discussion with a reporter who stopped by his locker.

Hall had his second bullpen session this morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. He threw all fastballs, just as he did on Monday, but can gradually increase his total.

“Every one gets a little bit more and more,” he said before heading out to the field.

“I’m feeling good, moving along. Everything’s progressing pretty normal. Not too long before I’ll be facing batters.”

The Orioles are bringing Hall along slowly after he experienced discomfort on the right side of his lower back about three weeks before camp opened. He said today that he’s been pain-free for about five weeks.

Hall is cleared to throw all of his pitches during next Monday’s session. The eventual goal is to begin throwing live batting practice to allow him to face some hitters.

“It’s going good, everything’s feeling good,” he said. “Ready to go. I’m excited.”

The Orioles can’t be certain of Hall’s availability on Opening Day until he gets into exhibition games, which the left-hander said should be “around the third week of March.”

The organization’s No. 2 pitching prospect will be on the clock. The Orioles won’t rush him, of course, but time becomes a factor with the season beginning on March 30 in Boston.

Being in the rotation on that date isn’t likely to happen due to a shortage of innings. However, Hall could be an option for the team in another capacity.

“We’re definitely going to see where he is and how he’s built up toward the end of camp to make a decision on it. Hopefully, there’s no setbacks going forward,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“Because he’s starting right now, he won’t be built up like our starters will be. We’re going to build him as much as possible and then kind of decide at that point what to do with him. Really unsure right now.”

Hall seems confident that he can be ready to contribute in the majors, with his role to be determined.

“It will be their decision on how they want to treat it, how they want to do it in order for me to be able to be on the Opening Day roster, but I think it’s definitely possible,” Hall said. “If they want me out there, then we can make it happen.”

The plan has been to stretch out Hall to start, with the club expressing its preference to keep him in a rotation – perhaps eliminating a relief role from consideration, though he excelled at it after returning in September. The Orioles want to carry at least one more left-hander in the bullpen besides Cionel Pérez. Maybe Hall becomes that guy at the beginning of the season.

It's one of the camp mysteries that must be solved before March 30.

“I’m not sure that I’ll be completely stretched out by that time, but like they said, we can get creative to stretch me out in the big leagues,” Hall said. “If they feel like I’m going to help the team win, then they can find a way for me to be on the roster.

“I have zero details, but they just told me if it’s something where I can help the team win, then they’ll find a way to get me on the roster.”

* Tyler Wells is starting Saturday afternoon against the Braves in Sarasota.

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