NEW YORK - The smallness of baseball’s world, always contradicting the sports’ population and broadening reach, led Mike Elias and DL Hall into the same room again. A different state and under much different circumstances, but together again. And they both found the humor in it.
Elias was in the Astros’ front office, a year away from the Orioles hiring him as their executive vice president/general manager and handing him the keys to an organization beginning an aggressive teardown. Dayton Lane Hall was a high school left-handed pitcher from Valdosta, Ga. with a commitment to attend Florida State University.
Hall, later to become known simply as DL, was “a target” for the Astros, in Elias’ exact words. But they never expected him to be available with the 15th pick.
“After the summer circuit, he did all the high-profile events,” Elias said this week. “He was considered kind of a consensus top seven, top 10 guy. We didn’t think it was going to be somebody that was going to get to us. His spring was a little inconsistent start to start, and for whatever reason he just became one of these guys who fell more toward the middle of the first round.”
There’s one break that could have changed the course of Orioles’ draft history and maybe their rebuild.
“We zeroed in on him all spring,” Elias said. “We knew he was, not the most polished product out of high school, but that the ceiling was enormous and that he had this tremendous aptitude.”
Elias and area scout Bobby St. Pierre, a big believer in Hall, traveled separately to the pitcher’s home and met with the entire family.
“So, he was a very serious consideration for us with the pick,” Elias said.
“He was a player that, the term I’d use for us is he was a ‘yes’ for us. He was in our top 15 magnets that we lined up.”
Which leads to a break that eventually got Hall into the Orioles’ system.
University of North Carolina pitcher J.B. Bukauskas also tumbled, and his magnet was attached above Hall’s name.
“But if Bukauskas hadn’t fallen,” Elias said, “we could have very easily drafted DL Hall.”
Bukauskas made his major league debut in 2021, but with the Diamondbacks, who acquired him two years earlier in the Zack Greinke trade. Twenty-one relief appearances, and a 7.79 ERA and 1.788 WHIP.
A grade 2 teres major tear in March - a muscle attached to the scapula that affects shoulder rotation - has kept Bukauskas off the mound this year.
Hall has endured a couple of health setbacks, including a stress reaction in his left elbow last year at Double-A Bowie, but he’s pitching at Triple-A Norfolk and expected to debut later this summer. His fastball touching 100 mph, as it did in his lone exhibition inning in Clearwater, Fla, his stuff off the charts.
He just needs the innings and better luck.
So, the Orioles hire Elias to begin a complete retooling of the organization, he’s invited to the team’s annual holiday party at the warehouse, and he sees a familiar face.
This is the second meeting, unscheduled and maybe happening near the ice sculpture that keeps the shrimp chilled. Or at the carving station.
“DL Hall was there, and we recognized each other,” Elias said. “He jokingly asked why I didn’t draft him, and I said that I knew that I was going to get the Orioles’ GM job, and now I’m happy that I did.”
Elias also inherited the organization’s top pitching prospect, Grayson Rodriguez, the 11th overall selection in 2018 out of Central Heights High School in Texas. The Astros weren’t on the clock until the 28th, where they chose Clemson outfielder Seth Beer, also included later in the Greinke trade.
“Grayson was a popup guy, meaning that he pitched at the Area Code Games, but I want to say he was 88-92 (mph), didn’t inspire a lot of attention in the scouting community other than amongst the area scouts who were just doing coverage in the area,” Elias recalled.
“People went in and saw him early and I think he was OK, and that’s when the Astros saw him. We just kind of filed a report on him, didn’t spend too much time on him. Our pick that year in 2018 was (28th) and we didn’t spend a lot of time on him. But I think the teams that stuck with him and went back a couple weeks later saw this big explosion that he had that spring. He just kept getting better and better start to start.
“Obviously, the Orioles did a terrific job staying on top of him and targeting him, and then ultimately taking him as high as they did.”
Charles Cook, now the Astros’ senior director of player evaluation, reviewed some TrackMan data in the spring and checked back with Elias.
“I think we’re a little light on this Grayson Rodriguez guy,” Elias remembers him saying.
Elias agreed but said, “It’s not like he’s going to get to us anyway.”
“I really think the Orioles’ scouting staff did a great job with him relative to the rest of the industry,” Elias said, “and hopefully we’ll be seeing him soon.”
How soon is the next nagging question, with Adley Rutschman’s promotion refreshing the order.
Rodriguez has a 2.70 ERA and 0.992 WHIP in nine starts for Norfolk, with 29 hits allowed and 66 strikeouts. He’s held opponents to three runs in his last four starts and struck out 33 in 21 2/3.
His next start is scheduled for Friday night. He’s now stretched out to six innings.
Elias is glad to have him, too.