Checking in with Donald Veal

MESA, Ariz. -- Donald Veal was the Cubs' second round pick in this year's draft. He spent time on the college level with two schools and had the option of going to a third had he not signed a professional contract. Inside The Ivy caught up with Veal in the Arizona League recently for an update on his first month with the Cubs, the decision to play pro ball, and more.

Veal has appeared in three games for the Cubs' rookie affiliate. His first start came on June 23, when he allowed one run and one hit to 10 batters in three innings of work. He struck out four and walked one.

"Things are going great so far," Veal said. "I'm just now starting to get used to throwing more here than what the college level offered."

Veal spent his first season on the collegiate circuit with the Arizona Wildcats in 2004 before transferring to Pima Community College in Tuscon, where the Cubs drafted him in June. The reason for transferring from Arizona was because the program wasn't offering him the amount of innings he desired.

This season, Veal, a physiology major, had already committed to TCU before he was drafted. In order for the Cubs to sign him, they had to prove how serious they were about acquiring his services. They did so by placing him ahead of 49 other draft picks.

"It took only a second-round pick to show me they were interested in me," Veal said. "You just can't turn that down. I may only have one chance to play pro ball."

Veal's first chance came two years earlier when the White Sox drafted him with their 12th round pick. One of the things the left-hander has been working on with the Cubs in Mesa is perfecting his curveball. His repertoire also features a fastball and changeup.

"The Cubs and I both decided to strenghen the consistency of my breaking ball," Veal said. "It was something I wanted to do anyway. Basically, they saw that I was overthrowing it and trying to do too much with it. Lately I've been working on not being as aggressive with it and it's been more under control."

As for some of the other things Veal is working on …

"I'm always working on trying to fine-tune my patience with my fastball and throwing my changeup more. It's a good pitch that I've discovered."

Veal has always featured the off-speed pitches, but now that he's joined the professional ranks, he realizes they become more of a necessity. The Cubs have been a big help in that respect, particular in regards to Veal's changeup.

"It turned out to be one of my best pitches," Veal said laughing. "Who knew. It's a new pitch that I've had all along."

And though Veal went to Mesa right after signing, a trip to either Boise or Peoria is well within reach this season, he believes.

"I've been on pitch counts every time I've gone out so far," Veal said. "I assume I'll be on them the rest of the season. They haven't really told me yet. The pitch counts vary from start to start. The first time it was only one inning, then three innings, or 45 pitches."

Veal hopes to increase his number of innings now that the Arizona League schedule has gone strictly to night games for the rest of the season. Often of a day, temperatures can reach up to 110 degrees in some spots on the field.

Playing in the sweltering southwest heat is something the Arizona native is used to, though.

"The last two weeks of a day, it feels like it's been about 114-115 degrees," Veal said. "We have some iced towels in the dugout. You just have to deal with it. There's really nothing you can do about it."

The Mesa Cubs are managed this year by Steve McFarland, who led Daytona to a first-half Florida State League championship in 2004 and an eventual tie for the league's end-of-season title. Rick Tronerud, a familiar face on the Arizona League circuit, is back for another season as pitching coach.

"(Steve and Rick) have both been great to me," Veal said. "Rick makes sure he spends time with everyone. He's helping me with any questions I have. He knows the little things that might help me in the game. I like him a lot. It's been a great experience so far."

Veal's last outing came on Thursday against the Mariners. He faced 13 batters, allowing five runs on four hits, including two home runs, in 2 2/3 innings.

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