DL Hall came into 2018 with zero expectations or goals for himself.
That changed after a conversation with Baltimore director of player development Brian Graham at the beginning of Spring Training, when Graham informed the 19-year-old left-hander that he was competing for a spot at Class A Delmarva.
Gameday box score
"It kind of opened my eyes a little bit," Hall said. "It really made me want to open the season in [full-season ball] and not stay down in extended [spring camp]. I'm blessed enough to even play this game in general, whether it was in extended or up here … but being able to come up here and start up in full season from the get-go was awesome. It was a huge honor for me."
On Tuesday, the Orioles' No. 5 prospect proved worthy of the opportunity, tossing three scoreless innings in his South Atlantic League debut as the Shorebirds beat Hickory, 4-2, at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium. At 6-0, Delmarva is off to its best start since 1996.
Hall gave up one hit, walked one and fanned two, throwing 18 of 30 pitches for strikes. He did not allow a runner into scoring position and induced inning-ending double plays in the second and third.
"One thing that I'm really working on this year is to be able to throw my fastball," he said. "That's something that they teach us, is that you have to get out in front with your fastball. To be successful for a long time, your fastball has a lot to do with it, so that's something that I'm focusing on, is commanding my fastball and working it down in the zone and hitting my spots. I think that's something that really helped me out a lot tonight. I was staying in the zone and pounding my fastball in-and-out."
Video: Hall Strikes Out First Class-A Batter
The 2017 first-round pick had a 6.97 ERA over five starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer. Baltimore was careful with his workload, with the 6-foot Georgia native logging only 10 1/3 innings.
He said the Orioles will remain careful to begin 2018, scheduling him to throw just three innings in each of his next two starts. He's optimistic that he'll be able to increase his pitch count as the season progresses, while also understanding his health is the biggest priority.
"I want to continue to play for a long time, and it's something you have to build up for. You can't go from high school, [where] I threw right about 60 innings my senior year, and you can't start me off with me going 160 innings in my first year," he said. "You got to be limited, and I think the biggest thing is keeping me healthy.
"Tonight was probably a little too short for me. But I have to trust the process with our pitching coaches and everybody in the organization, that they are going to progress me like I need to be and they're doing a really good job of that."
Gray Fenter (1-0) got the win after giving up a run on four hits over three frames. Travis Seabrooke worked three hitless innings for his first professional save, yielding an unearned run on a walk with two strikeouts.
The Shorebirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third as Branden Becker was 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and an RBI, and Ben Breazeale had a two-run double.
Ryan Dorow and Kole Enright plated runs for the Crawdads.
Taken 21st overall in last year's Draft, Hall was the first pitcher selected in the first round by the Orioles since Dylan Bundy went fourth overall in 2012. He turned down a scholarship to Florida State University to sign with the O's for a reported $3 million signing bonus.
Hall spent two seasons at Houston County (Georgia) High School before moving to Valdosta. Patrolling the hot corner for him was Jake Fromm, who quarterbacked the University of Georgia to the 2018 college football national championship game.
"He got some big-time attention," said Hall, who still keeps in touch with the UGA signal caller. "It's a little bigger than [Class A] baseball."
If things go as planned, Hall will join Fromm in the spotlight. But for now, he'll continue trusting the process.