Orioles sign Bill Hall, Dontrelle Willis’ agent speaks

So much for a quiet day off.

The Orioles didn’t play a game today, but they’ve been in the news with the signing of infielder Bill Hall to a minor league deal and confirmation that pitcher Dontrelle Willis left Triple-A Norfolk and has been placed on the restricted list.

Hall will replace Josh Bell at Norfolk. In a text message, executive vice president Dan Duquette said Hall’s strengths are “his defense at third base and power hitting vs. left-handed pitching.”

Hall, 32, is a career .248/.307/.436 hitter in 10 major league seasons. He hit .211 last year in a combined 62 games with Houston and San Francisco. He belted 35 homers with Milwaukee in 2006.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal first reported that Hall signed with the Orioles.

Meanwhile, Willis requested his release so he could sign with another team that would let him be a starter again. The Orioles are committed to turning Willis into a left-handed relief specialist.

According to Willis’ agent, Matt Sosnick, Willis left the Tides on Friday and returned home.

“I was told by someone I respect very much in the organization that if they decided (Willis) would not be a starter, he could have his release and start somewhere else,” Sosnick said. “He met with (Dan) Duquette, and Duquette told him he’s not interested in Dontrelle starting for him. And based on what Dontrelle told me came out of the meeting, he left and went home. When I called the person I have the relationship with to ask what’s going on, because we found out through the press basically that they put him on their restricted list, he told me, ‘It’s not your fault. You didn’t misinterpret anything.’ They just chose to put him on the restricted list.

“It’s just so ridiculous. I don’t even know what to say. We’re waiting for him to get off the restricted list so he can sign with someone else in Triple-A. If you’re not going to support your own people, I don’t know what point there is.”

Willis believes that pitching in relief caused the forearm pain that led the Orioles to initially place him on the seven-day minor league disabled list.

“He said he’s never been injured like that his whole career,” Sosnick said. “He strained his forearm and could never really get in the rhythm of it. He said mentally, he liked going through the preparation and routine of knowing when he was going to throw. He was more comfortable.”

Willis signed with the Orioles in spring training knowing that he was being converted to the bullpen.

“They asked us, ‘Hey, if we decide we want to make him a starter, is he willing stay here and start?
And we said, ‘Of course. If that’s the case, he’ll be happy to stay,’” Sosnick said. “They said, ‘If he wants to start and we’re not using him as a starter, we’ll definitely release him.’ So he goes home and he’s on the restricted list. It’s literally the craziest thing.

“He did try it and he couldn’t get in the rhythm of it. He wasn’t trying to fool anybody and neither were the Orioles. Like I said, it was one of those deals where they told us if they weren’t going to make him a starter, it’s OK. I don’t understand what’s going on.

“We’ve contacted the union for some clarification on the restricted list. At the end of the day, I don’t know. I reached out to Duquette and I haven’t heard back yet. It’s one of those things where, in the scheme of life, it’s such a nothing thing. It’s a pain based on how it’s come up and the fact that no one even bothered to call Dontrelle or myself to say, ‘Hey, what’s the deal? Why did he leave?’ They just put him on the restricted list wihtout checking with us. It’s really bad form.

“It’s an internal thing between the Orioles. It has nothing to do with us.”

I haven’t been able to reach Duquette for comment on Willis, but I’m told he has no immediate plans to release the lefty.

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