BOWIE, Md. – Two of the Orioles' very best prospects looked every bit of that yesterday as they played for Double-A Bowie against Harrisburg. After both catcher Adley Rutschman and pitcher DL Hall had another good day they did a round of interviews. And not long after that came the news that the stay in Bowie would last three days.
They were promoted to Triple-A Norfolk to join the Tides in Nashville tonight. For Rutschman it’s a return to the team he ended last year with. Hall will make his Triple-A debut in his first Norfolk game.
Their inevitable march to Baltimore takes another important step. The Orioles continue to get on with it with some of their prospects. They are now on the cusp of the majors.
Hall pitched 3 2/3 innings versus Harrisburg Thursday afternoon, allowing three hits and two runs that scored after he left the game. He was dominant at times, touching 99 and 100 mph, and got swings and misses with four pitches.
But the best stat for Hall, according to the pitcher himself, was his strike percentage. It was 80 percent, with 47 of his 59 pitches strikes. He got strikes on 19 of 21 pitches the first two innings and fanned six batters the first time through the order. For a pitcher with a career 5.0 walk rate, it seems he is making big progress with control and command. This was the definition of pounding the zone. After his elbow stress fracture short-circuited his 2021 season last June, Hall had some thinking to do about needing to throw more strikes moving forward.
“A huge step in the right direction for me was this offseason,” Hall explained. “It was close to 11 months until I toed the rubber at Aberdeen last week. So, I had a lot of off time. Lot of time to learn how much I under-appreciated baseball. And just being out there. Now every game I get to step out there is a blessing and I’m just super thankful to be back on the field. I missed it.”
And he took to heart the message to continue making gains with command. He said it was a mindset change more than anything physical or mechanical. As for working with Rutschman as his backstop, he’ll take that every day.
“He’s a difference-maker back there,” said Hall. “He’s a difference-maker all over the field. Just with the bat and behind the plate. It’s awesome to watch him play every day. It’s something that is super special, and he is a super special talent. To get to watch him play every day is a blessing. He definitely steals some strikes for you, and little things like that go a long way for pitchers.”
How fast can Hall move this season? O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has said it could be quick. The elite talent and his strong passion will help him force his way onto the roster, perhaps.
“It’s always a good feeling to hear things like that," said Hall. "I try to stay out of it as much as I can and not listen to the outside noise and just focus on preparing and getting ready. But whenever that day comes, I’ll be ready.”
Same applies for Rutschman, who hit two well-struck singles yesterday and was robbed of another base hit by a nice defensive play in the eighth.
Rutschman has gone 5-for-12 (.462) in three games with Bowie as he now heads to Triple-A. In seven games between high Single-A Aberdeen and Bowie, he is batting .440 (11-for-25) with five doubles, seven runs, two RBIs, four walks and just one strikeout.
He is swinging well and the majors are close at hand now.
“I felt like I’ve been able to put together good ABs so far. Been able to see a lot of pitches," Rutschman said. "Trying to get my timing back, and when I get pitches in the zone, drive them.
“No idea when (the call to the major leagues) it's going to happen. But I have to just try and be as ready as I can when and if I get the call. That’s my job.”
Catching Hall yesterday, Rutschman had the best seat to see his swing-and-miss stuff. Rutschman acknowledged that this was a strong game, even by Hall’s standards, but that “every single outing he has, he has the ability to do that.”
And seeing Hall somewhat effortlessly hit 99 and 100 mph? Rutschman is getting used to that.
“It’s almost sad at this point it doesn’t even faze me. It’s just expected, which is crazy because it’s so normal, but it is special. It is cool.”
The duo had a big afternoon, their final one in Double-A. Triple-A is next and Baltimore is lurking somewhere in the distance.
Homer-happy O's win again: Heading into Wednesday's game in Baltimore, first-place Minnesota had won 11 of its last 12, allowing just 25 total runs. Then the Orioles scored 14 and hit seven homers in winning the last two games of the series.
They hit five solo homers last night, which is one more home run than they hit in the season's first 14 games. But the Orioles have bashed 14 homers the past 11 games.
The Birds are now 7-9 against current first-place teams, going 2-1 versus the Los Angeles Angels, 2-2 against Minnesota, 1-2 versus Milwaukee and 2-4 against the Yankees. Last season they played .321 ball over 162 games. This season they have played .438 ball versus current division leaders.
Ryan Mountcastle hit solo homers in the second and eighth innings, recording his fourth career multi-homer game and first since Aug. 24, 2021 against the Los Angeles Angels.
Cedric Mullins has homered in back-to-back games for the sixth time in his career. He extended his hit streak to six games, the longest by an Oriole this season. During this span he is batting .375 (10-for-26) with four doubles, one home run, and two RBIs.