Flame-throwing left-hander DL Hall is coming to Baltimore with the expectation that the 24-year-old prospect will provide bullpen cover after the Orioles placed All-Star closer Félix Bautista on the injured list.

Bautista departed Friday’s win against the Colorado Rockies with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning of a save situation. Manager Brandon Hyde said Bautista felt arm discomfort on his final pitch, and general manager and Executive Vice President Mike Elias said Saturday that Bautista suffered an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.

Elias said the severity of the injury — or an exact timetable on Bautista’s recovery — remains unclear. But injuries to the UCL tend to be severe for pitchers, often leading to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

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Hall hasn’t appeared in the majors since he was the 27th man for a doubleheader in April. The Valdosta, Georgia, native made his debut last season as a starting pitcher before transitioning to the bullpen, where he excelled down the stretch with one run against him in his final 8 2/3 innings.

This season has been more tumultuous for Hall, though. Lower back discomfort at the start of spring training slowed his early-season progression, and in June the Orioles sent Hall back to Sarasota, Florida, with the goal of gaining strength on a regimen he couldn’t follow while starting games.

Away from the spotlight, Hall built his velocity back. When he left Triple-A Norfolk for Sarasota, Hall’s fastball velocity averaged 93.5 mph — below the 96.2 mph average on his four-seamer during limited time in Baltimore last year. But, since he returned to Triple-A, Hall’s fastball is once more in the 96 mph to 98 mph range.

With it has come a series of strong appearances. He returned at the beginning of August, and in 7 2/3 innings across six appearances, Hall struck out 18 batters and allowed four walks, three hits and two runs.

Hall figured to be part of the Orioles’ late-season plans regardless of any injuries. On Sept. 1, the major league active roster expands, allowing one additional position player and pitcher. His arrival, though, coincides with concern over Bautista.

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Bautista has been one of baseball’s best pitchers — let alone relievers — this season, pushing the closer into Cy Young Award consideration. He has 33 saves, a 1.48 ERA and a 0.918 WHIP.

With Bautista unavailable for save situations going forward, the bullpen construction for Hyde will be vastly different than it has been for the better part of two seasons. Right-hander Yennier Canó would be the logical replacement, moving from his setup role into the ninth inning. But Hall, with his high velocity, could also be a consideration for late-game, high-leverage situations.


Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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