ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – DL Hall had plenty of company this afternoon while warming in the visiting bullpen area at Tropicana Field. He attracted the entire pitching staff, plus injured starter Tyler Wells. Forming a line next to him that curved into the outfield grass, then straightening it from mound to plate like it’s usually done in the infield after wins.
Hall hugged catcher Robinson Chirinos, turned, and made his way up the line to receive high-fives and pats from his teammates. The No. 4 prospect in the organization entering his major league debut and a culture that welcomes newcomers like old friends.
He’s one of them. And will remain so after the Orioles optioned him this afternoon.
An inning in an exhibition game was followed today by Hall’s major league debut against the Rays. The heat of a pennant race felt inside an air-conditioned dome.
Hall lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs and five hits in an 8-2 loss to the Rays. He walked three batters and struck out six, and manager Brandon Hyde removed him at 76 pitches.
The Orioles will try again on Sunday to win their first series against the Rays in St. Petersburg since 2017. They’re 59-54 and a half-game behind Tampa Bay for third place in the division and in the wild card chase.
The heat almost brought the game to a boil, with the benches and bullpens emptying after Pete Fairbanks struck out Chirinos to end the top of the eighth. Fairbanks yelled at Chirinos, who called time late before the previous pitch, and the Orioles’ catcher took a few steps toward him with bat in hand.
No punches were thrown, but Chirinos, who had plenty to say, and Rougned Odor needed to be restrained.
"I don't know, man," Chirinos said. "He's wild, everybody knows in the league. I called a timeout and Andy (Fletcher) called it late. It was not my fault. I guess he thought it was my fault I called that timeout late. And then we lost that game, so it doesn't matter. I don't care about it."
Hyde turned his back after the strikeout and missed what led to the scrum.
"We'll figure that out," he said.
"Yeah, there was a late time call," Fairbanks said. "I took offense. Apparently I misunderstood who had called time, where it came from. Apparently it was the umpire, not Chirinos. I, as you guys know, can be a little fiery. So I think that that might have caused some things today.
"I grew up playing basketball. He said some things to me, I said some things to him. I thought it was a fairly normal exchange of talking. I didn't think that they were going to empty that fast.
"I did not think that what was said back and forth between us warranted everybody sprinting out there, but I'm not the one that took offense in the dugout. It is what it is. Baseball is not quite the back-and-forth talking sport that you might get elsewhere, so that's part of it and it's to be noted and we move on."
The Rays scored three runs in the third inning to erase a 2-1 deficit, and Bryan Baker replaced Hall in the fourth after Yu Chang’s sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field. José Siri stole two bases after a leadoff single, the call at second base overturned upon review.
Hall issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced, Chang, beginning with a 95.3 mph fastball. Randy Arozarena singled to right field with one out, and Chang scored on Isaac Paredes’ ground ball. A 22-pitch inning for Hall, who had a large cheering section behind the dugout.
Grayson Rodriguez, baseball’s No. 1 pitching prospect, watched from the stands. He drove up from Sarasota, where he’s scheduled to throw his third bullpen session on Monday in his recovery from a Grade 2 lat strain.
Hall was the 12th Oriole to make his major league debut this season and the seventh pitcher. The club record is 16 set last year.
"It was a real blessing," Hall said. "This is something I dreamt of since I was 4-years-old. Didn't go the way you quite picture it, but still a blessing to be able to call yourself a big leaguer and get to experience that. It was unbelievable.
"I'd say I was pretty nervous. Yesterday, I was all right. I woke up this morning and it all hit me at once, and coming to the field it just kind of continued to build. Those first couple batters, I told a few guys, I was like, 'Man, I couldn't even feel my body really,' so it was crazy."
The Orioles optioned Hall, as expected, to begin his switch to a relief role at Triple-A Norfolk, with a return to the majors in late August or early September.
The rotation beckons in 2023, but in the meantime, this is a way to control innings and use an electric arm.
"We decided that, he got his feet wet in the big leagues, made his first start, and he's going to Norfolk and we're going to convert him into a reliever here and help us out the last part of the season," Hyde said.
"We did it (call-up) for numerous reasons, and one was to get him here and to get acclimated to what it's like here. I think that's great. Now he goes down, understands what he needs to work on, change the role a little bit to end the season. It wasn't the results he wanted, but anytime you get that first experience out of the way, it's positive."
Said Hall: "They have a plan and I trust in it. I'm going to go down and work on what I need to work on, and hopefully come back and prove that I belong to be here."
The stuff should play in any role.
"I'm just going to attack it the same way," he said. "The big thing for me is to just go after guys and I'm just going to continue to do that in a relief role. This is a great team, a great group of guys, and to see them winning like they are is super exciting, and I hope to be able to come back as soon as possible and help them to continue to win."
The Orioles scored twice in the second inning against Baltimore native and Cy Young Award candidate Shane McClanahan, beginning with Ramón Urias double, Jorge Mateo’s infield hit and Odor’s ground ball through the vacated shortstop area.
Chirinos, getting the start because manager Brandon Hyde didn’t want Adley Rutschman behind the plate in a day game following a night game, lined a single into right field to score Mateo with the go-ahead run.
Paredes made a diving catch at third base to rob Austin Hays before Mateo singled. The hardest-hit ball of the inning produced an out.
Anthony Santander reached on an infield hit with two outs to load the bases, with Chang making a diving stop up the middle to prevent a run from scoring. Ryan Mountcastle lined to short, and McClanahan was back in the dugout at 44 pitches.
Hall came out of the visiting side with his first lead, and he struck out the side – on a 96 mph fastball to Christian Bethancourt, a called third strike to Siri on an 82 mph changeup, and a 97.2 mph fastball to Roman Quinn – his best velocity of the afternoon.
Chirinos waited for Hall in front of the dugout, fist-bumped him and patted him twice on the back. He was in a much better mood early.
"I think he did good," Chirinos said. "Early in the game he was getting behind people. His fastball was tough to command today, and his changeup, his slider and the curveball were more in the zone. I liked his stuff since spring training. I know he can help this team now and going forward. His stuff plays really well, so I'm looking forward for his next outing when he's more calm and he's more behind the ball with his fastball and he can attack the strike zone more. That's the only thing I saw today.
"That second inning was way better, when he was throwing his fastball in the zone and his breaking ball in the zone, so looking forward to his next outing to repeat that second inning. He has great stuff. I don't know whether he's been a reliever before, but I know he can start in this level and be really good going forward."
McClanahan needed only seven pitches in the third and the Rays took a 4-2 lead in the bottom half on three consecutive two-out hits. Hyde visited the mound after Arozarena doubled to tie the game, and Hall stepped off the rubber and threw home on an appeal, but Yandy Díaz’s run still counted.
Arozarena scored on Paredes’ double, a ball that the Orioles didn’t cut off in left-center, and Francisco Mejia dumped an RBI single into left. Hall, hurt by a leadoff walk to Taylor Walls, struck out Bethancourt on an 88 mph slider, his 60th pitch of the game.
Siri had a soft single into right field leading off the fourth. Hall’s sixth strikeout came on a changeup that froze Quinn, but Walls walked again and Chang flied to right to expand the lead.
"Just talking to him, I think it was a little quick for him, but I thought he showed flashes of what he's going to be in that second inning, when he had electric stuff," Hyde said. "It's a lot for a young pitcher to make their debut. I just think he was a little bit over-amped there early, a couple leadoff walks. The fastball was up and he had a tough time making an adjustment, but I think he's going to be a really good pitcher and we're excited for him going forward."
Aggressive baserunning by Siri led to a run against Spenser Watkins in the sixth. He tagged and took second base on Walls’ fly ball to left-center field, and scored on Chang’s two-out single into center field.
Walls was a pest at the bottom of the order. He also hit a two-run homer off Watkins in the eighth.
McClanahan retired eight of nine batters before Odor walked with two outs in the top of sixth and Chirinos singled again. Ryan McKenna came to the plate as the tying run and struck out on McClanahan’s 100th pitch.
The Orioles had their chances earlier to get McClanahan out of the game. He stayed long enough to earn his 11th win, with his ERA at 2.28.
Rutschman collected his 23rd double in 66 games in the seventh and was stranded. Former Orioles reliever Jimmy Yacabonis hit Mountcastle on the left hand with two outs in the ninth. Mountcastle stayed in the game after being checked.
Mountcastle's hand was wrapped in ice to minimize the swelling.
"Hopefully, everything's going to be OK," Hyde said.
The Orioles must make a quick recovery from this loss and avoid losing the series before flying to Toronto. And before they summon Hall back to the majors.
"You see the light at the end of the tunnel," Hall said, "and hopefully I can iron some things out and come show what I can do up here."