Phillies Roster

A year after ‘smelling blood in the water,' Darick Hall trying to reestablish a role

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Phillies were back at Hammond Stadium Tuesday afternoon for the first time since March 1, 2023, when their 20-year-old top prospect Andrew Painter pitched two innings, hit triple-digits with his fastball and only added to the hype around his potential spot on the Opening Day roster.

A lot can change in a year. Painter injured his elbow that day and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in July. He'll spend the season rehabbing and won't factor into the Phillies' 2024 plans.

The opportunity was there, but the situation did not play out how Painter or the Phillies would have hoped. The same could be said for first baseman/DH Darick Hall, who is less heralded but was also in a prime spot to earn ample playing time a year ago at this time with Bryce Harper on the mend from Tommy John surgery. Harper's injury meant Kyle Schwarber would spend more time in left field and that opened up the designated hitter spot for Hall, who was coming off a 28-homer season at Triple A with nine more in the majors. Then Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL on March 23 and Hall became even more important to the Phillies with first base open.

Hall started five of the Phillies' first six games before tearing a ligament in his right thumb sliding into second base at Yankee Stadium on April 5. That was pretty much it for him in the majors last season, aside from a difficult three-week stretch in July.

He enters this camp in a much different spot. Barring injuries, the Phillies appear to have just one bench spot up for grabs. Hall is a longshot competing with Cristian Pache, Jake Cave, Weston Wilson, Kody Clemens and non-roster invitees like Scott Kingery, Cal Stevenson and David Dahl.

"I definitely smelled blood in the water (last spring). I felt like there was a real chance to be a starter somewhere," Hall said Monday after homering to right field against the Red Sox. "I was really, really pleased with how my year went the year before, I felt like I took some big strides forward at the plate. And then I kept it going, spring I was hitting well and just trying to mix in where I could — first base, outfield.

"I was really just super excited with where I was. It was the most excited I've ever been in my career because I felt like the thing I loved the most, which was hitting, was getting to a level I've never experienced where I'm starting to hit a lot of home runs, starting to hit for average, starting to walk, starting to do cool things. Obviously the injury happens and it was a bigger setback than I thought. I thought when I got to play again that it would be exactly how it was. I have a greater respect for how other people handle it now. I think it made me better as a person."

Pache and Cave are out of minor-league options. Hall, Wilson and Clemens have option(s) remaining, which means the Phillies can send them to the minor leagues without having to pass them through waivers first. The reality of major-league roster construction is that players who have options left are easier to trim from the active roster.

"I'm just trying to get rolling because I think there's still a place," Hall said. "It could be a bench role, it could be a spot start here and there. However they choose to use me, they'll use me. But I think it's just my responsibility not to think about that.

"Without there being that spot like last year, I'm OK with that, I'm just trying to be the best I can be and be able to be used early. Last year was such a weird year. It was a very emotional year, emotional highs, emotional lows. Scratching and clawing. It was a learning year, too. It was really my first time dealing with a major injury. I think I pushed myself too hard. I wish I would've given myself a little more grace. I was really pushing hard. I got good results from it, but it could have been different if I would have known how to handle it better."

The 28-year-old Hall finished strong at Triple A, hitting .321/.403/.624 over his final 42 games with 15 homers and 39 RBI. He ended at .313 for the season. It was a much-needed confidence boost for a player who has an attribute — left-handed power — that has a place on major-league benches.

"I did something that I've never really done when I was in the minor leagues — I hit .300 for the first time," he said. "And sure, it was a smaller sample size, but it was still about 80 games, and that was just coming back off an injury. I felt like, in a way, I was still able to get better even though I didn't have as much time in the big leagues as I thought I would have.

"I was just a different player later in the summer. It just seemed like I lost my power stroke there for a little bit, and then later in the summer it was like, woah. It came back."

Pache, Hall, Wilson, Cave and Kingery were all in the Phillies' lineup for Tuesday's game against the Twins. They're taking part in one of the only battles of camp. There are also two spots up for grabs in the bullpen.

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