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Veal looks to show he belongs

Veal looks to show he belongs
ST. LOUIS -- Three pitches into his big-league career, Pirates reliever Donnie Veal had an ERA of infinity.

But after giving up a solo homer to St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Veal struck out the side. In between those extremes, though, Veal also had walked the bases loaded.

"A little nerve-racking," said Veal, smiling. "I'm sure that was one of the most interesting debuts ever."

Tuesday, Veal made his first appearance in the Pirates' 9-3 loss against the Cardinals. It was a mop-up job, as the Pirates were trailing 8-1 when the lefty entered the game in the fifth inning.

Pirates manager John Russell wanted Veal's baptism to come in a low-pressure situation. A Rule 5 pick, Veal, 24, essentially is a Double-A pitcher playing in the majors.

"Donnie got that first one under his belt," Russell said. "It's usually a tough one. He came through it OK."

Molina ripped a 2-0 fastball over the wall in left-center field. As Molina rounded the bases, Veal stepped off the mound, inhaled deeply and exhaled.

"The nervousness was an exciting nervousness," Veal said. "Once I got the ball and got on the mound, I lost all that and focused on what I was trying to do."

Joe Thurston and Kyle Loshe went down flailing at low breaking balls.

Skip Schumaker walked on five pitches. Colby Rasmus walked on four. That brought up Pirates killer Albert Pujols, who already had mashed a long, two-run homer against starter Ian Snell.

"I wouldn't say I was worried about it. I really wasn't," Veal said. "I was just trying to get ahead and bury him. It wasn't, 'Oh, that's Albert Pujols.' He was just another hitter, and I was trying to get him out."

The first pitch was a changeup away. Veal thought it caught the edge of the plate. Pujols, the reigning league MVP, got the call. Ball one.

Another changeup, ball two. Two fastballs also missed, loading the bases.

"It wasn't like he was misfiring by a couple feet," Russell said. "It was just off the plate when he walked guys. His breaking ball came around. He really didn't show consistency with that (pitch) in spring training, but he showed it tonight."

Veal's best weapon is a fastball which touches the mid-90s. He throws two varieties of a curveball, but struggled to command it during spring training.

"I was trying to do too much with it," Veal said. "I've got to either throw it for a strike or throw a ball and try to get a swing. I'm not trying to go in and out, up and down and all that. Simplifying things helps a lot."

Up came Chris Duncan, who homered in the first inning. Veal caught him looking, and what could have been a disastrous inning instead became a respectable debut.

"I wasn't able to locate my fastball well, but I was able to locate better with my breaking ball, battle and get through a tough inning," Veal said. "I realize I can do this, and I belong here."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 11, 2009

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