Hall back in old stomping grounds
Sox catcher gets rare start in St. Petersburg as opponent
ST. PETERSBURG -- Although Toby Hall has played in 285 games at Tropicana Field, Saturday night's matchup was only the third time Hall has been the backstop in opposing colors.
After Friday's outstanding offensive effort, in which the White Sox lineup dominated top to bottom, garnering 10 hits and nine runs, manager Ozzie Guillen said he opted to give some of his regular starters Saturday night off.
That included catcher A.J. Pierzynski, whose day of rest set up a homecoming of sorts for Hall. The 32-year-old was drafted by the Rays in the ninth round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft. Hall initially floated around Tampa Bay's Minor League system before his first full season in 2003. The Rays then traded their starting catcher to the Dodgers midway through the 2006 season. The White Sox snatched him as a free agent, signing Hall to a two-year, $3.65 million deal in December 2006, along with a $2.25 million club option for 2009.
But the road has been rocky for Hall, who was seemingly a perfect pickup for Chicago at the time. He had been a solid starter in Tampa Bay, and his ability to hit left-handed pitching (he was a career .275 hitter against lefties entering 2007) would complement Pierzynski, a right-handed hitter.
Unfortunately, Hall spent the 2007 season plagued by injuries after he dislocated his right shoulder diving for a ball at first base on March 26. The spring injury kept the backstop ineffective for most of the season, limiting him to a mere 38 games in his first year with the Sox. Although Hall is now healthy, he is still struggling at the plate, batting .167 with no runs scored so far this season.
Prior to Saturday's game, the catcher could be seen exchanging words with several of his old teammates on the field of his old stomping grounds.
"It's good for Toby, another chapter of his career," Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "He had a good time [with the Rays], just seeing him doing well, seeing him healthy seeing his career going forward [is good]."
Gomes understands that injuries like Hall's all too often cue the end of a player's career, and said he is glad to see the catcher still in gear, although no longer with the Rays.
"I mean, that's kind of how this business is -- you only got 25 guys," Gomes said. "It's good [to see Toby]. ... It's not always good when you see a guy out of the game."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.