Q&A with Donald Veal

There are few players in the Cubs' farm system that have fans and scouts as excited as left-hander Donald Veal. The southpaw was named the Cubs 2006 Player of the Year by the organization after posting 11 wins with a 2.16 ERA. Veal led the farm system with 174 strikeouts in only his second season since being drafted.

Veal was a second-round pick from Pima Community College in Arizona in 2005, and began 2006 at Class-A Peoria. He struggled through his first two starts with the team, but by the middle of June, he'd won five games and struck out 86 over 73 2/3 innings to warrant the call up to Daytona.

With the Florida State League club, Veal's numbers only got better. He posted a 1.67 ERA in 14 starts and closed with the lowest average against (.175) of any starter in the Cubs' farm system. He was named the 2006 Inside The Ivy Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

We spent a few moments with the southpaw recently and got his thoughts on some of the things he's doing now to prepare for 2007, and more on his '06 season.

The last time we talked, we got your thoughts on the year you had in 2006. Now I'd like to get your thoughts going into 2007 after the great season you had.

Right now I'm just trying to basically have myself ready to go going into Spring Training. I want to go in ready to go pitching-wise. Physically, I'm not worried about my arm or my strength; that will all build up. I'm going to be worried about the rest of my body and getting the feel back for all of my pitches. The main thing for me next year is to throw a lot more strikes, cut down on my walks a little more and continue to build on what I did in 2006.

Are the walks (82 in 154.1 IP) something you're overly alarmed by at this point?

Not really, but I know the further I move up, the more patient the hitters are. I also know that when I give a guy a free bag, it's going to be easier for that guy to score. Runs don't come easy, so I don't want to give up any easy ones.

After logging as many innings as you did this year, how did your arm feel once the season ended?

I was pretty gassed. It was the most I'd thrown ever. It feels good now, though. I've been playing real, real light catch, so it feels fine.

What has the off-season been like for you to this point? Does it differ any from your regime this time last year?

I'm using the same trainer. Some of the workouts are a little different, but for the most part it's pretty much the same. It worked out great last year, so I'm going to stay on it again this year.

You're a shining example when it comes to players keeping their bodies in shape year-round. If you had to tell your teammates and all the guys that come to camp with you each spring one thing, what would you tell them is the most important thing to focus on this time of year?

As far as pitchers go, I think the big thing is worrying about your back and shoulders. They're the core. We do legs and everything else, but I'd say the biggest thing to me is the back and shoulders.

Are you working on anything with regards to your pitches this time of year or is it too early to dive into all that just yet?

Not yet; it's more playing catch and jogging.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from 2006?

I learned to trust myself more. These are all good hitters and you have to give them their due, but if you pitch the way you're supposed to pitch and throw the pitches you can throw, you can get pretty much everyone out as long as you execute. That's the biggest thing I learned; trusting my stuff and having faith in it because I know it's good enough.

I know I said I didn't want to dwell on '06 after we talked so much about it earlier this year, but was there any one of your secondary pitches that you took the most pride in this past season from a developmental standpoint?

I'm happy with my curveball. We worked on it a lot and toward the very end of the season, it got a little more consistent. We just figured out some things I was doing; not necessarily mechanical. That's one thing I was happy improving on, but I'm still not satisfied with it. I worked on my changeup a lot and it turned out to be one of my best pitches; almost as good as my fastball when it's on. Changing speeds and keeping guys off balance helps so much. It was money for me this season.

You're also doing some work for the Cubs Caravan tour we understand. What can you tell us about that?

I talked to Sean Gallagher just briefly about it because I know he went last year. I didn't know what to expect at all. He told me it was basically a fan convention thing. We go around and take pictures with fans and stuff. It's a a fun event.

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