Hill, Veal Named Players of the Year

The Chicago Cubs announced their 2006 awards for Minor League Players of the Year Saturday. Unlike years past, this year's awards were handed down to two pitchers: left-handers Rich Hill and Donald Veal.

Previously, the Cubs handed down an award for pitcher of the Year, and one for position player of the Year. The Cubs started the tradition in 2004.

The 26-year-old Hill began 2006 at Triple-A Iowa and made four starts before being promoted to Chicago. He was 1-0 with a 1.44 ERA in those four starts. He made four starts for the big league team before being sent back to Iowa.

Hill then made 11 starts for the Iowa Cubs, finishing 7-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 135 strikeouts to 21 walks in 100 innings at Triple-A overall before being brought back up to Chicago in late July. Since re-joining the major league club, he is 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA and .219 average against in 59 innings.

"Rich had a dominate season at Iowa this season," Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said. "His command greatly improved and he has made huge strides holding runners, fielding his position, bunting, and yes, handling the bat."

Veal, who turns 22 on Monday, began the year at Class-A Peoria and won five games while posting a 2.69 ERA in 14 starts before being promoted to Daytona in late June. Following the promotion, he went 6-2 with a 1.67 ERA in 14 starts. He had the lowest average against of any Cubs minor league starter (.175) this season.

Selected in the second round of the 2005 draft from Pima Community College in Arizona, Veal was named the 2006 Inside The Ivy Pitcher of the Year earlier this month.

"For a guy to have the first half he had in Peoria and then finish up so strong, it really showed us how hard he prepared himself last winter," Fleita said of Veal on Sept. 2. "That's what you hope these players realize when they come out of their first year of play: that the work required of them in the off-season really allows them to stay strong like Donnie has."

The awards were announced prior to the Cubs' scheduled 3:05 p.m. CDT start against Cincinnati at Wrigley Field.

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