In 12 innings over 11 appearances, Don Veal’s walked 13 hitters and struck out only 7. He’s kept his ERA down nicely, mostly because he’s only allowed 4 hits in the same span. Given Veal’s recent struggles in the minors, I have to think that the Pirates can’t be too pleased to see such poor control out of Veal in camp this spring. So what does the team do?
Because Veal is a Rule 5 pick, they have to offer him back to the Cubs if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster or they take him off the roster during the season. When Evan Meek struggled last year, the Pirates were able to work out a deal with Tampa to keep Meek for a little bit of cash, but I don’t imagine the Cubs will be amenable to that sort of arrangement this year, as Veal has some real upside and the Cubs aren’t as pitching rich in the minors as the Rays have been the past few years.
This puts the Pirates in a tricky situation. I think Veal is the kind of player they’d like to have in the system and take a longer look at, but is it worth it to keep Veal on the roster in the hopes that he finds the strike zone and can function as a reliever this year? If he can’t, they’d have to bury him in the bullpen in order to keep him. That would cost him an important year of development and waste a bullpen on for a team with a pretty tenuous pitching situation already. It’s true that the final record for the Pirates in 2009 probably won’t matter in the long run, but it’s still a questionable risk to take on a guy that’s far from a sure thing.
I’m guessing Veal starts the year out with the Pirates anyways, but how long do they give him? What sort of performance is deemed acceptable? Since Veal’s a more interesting prospect than Evan Meek with no chance of being returned on a demotion, does he get a longer leash? Does he have to pitch to a Denny Bautista level to stick around? Better? Worse? Sometimes I’m pretty sure that being a general manager would be awfully hard.