Chicago White Sox: Is Donnie Veal Destined for Triple-A Charlotte?
It is simply a matter of versatility—something that Veal does not necessarily have and the White Sox desperately need.
To be sure, Veal—the 2005 second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs—was phenomenal in 2012.
In 24 appearances, he posted a 1.38 ERA, collected 19 K in 13.0 innings and finished with a 0.69 WHIP. He only allowed three hits to left-handed batters in 32 at-bats, while holding right handed hitters to a .154 BAA.
He was dominant, yet one-dimensional.
Out of his final 15 appearances last season, Veal pitched more than 0.1 innings once, and he was used almost exclusively against lefties. He is reminiscent of Kelly Wunsch or Boone Logan in that he is extremely specialized.
It is that specialization that may cost him a roster spot to Hector Santiago (4-1, 3.33) in the White Sox bullpen.
MLBDepthCharts.com has Veal on the 25-man roster and Santiago “on the outside looking in.” Santiago can do too many things for the White Sox, however, and it is unlikely that he won't make the team.
While he was miserable as a closer in 2012, he excelled as a starter (2-0, 1.86 ERA) and—once removed from save situations—was very reliable out of the bullpen. Short outings or long ones, he typically did what he was asked to do.
In addition, as the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales noted last week, “Santiago’s screwball makes him just as effective against right-handed hitters as left-handers."
To be fair, neither manager Robin Ventura nor pitching coach Don Cooper has touched the subject of how many pitchers will break camp, so anything is possible. That said, it is unlikely that they will open the season against the Kansas City Royals with 13 of them on the roster.
Another obstacle for Veal is the bench.
Should the White Sox open the season with 13 pitchers?
Angel Sanchez is all but assured a roster spot. He is a Rule 5 pick from the Los Angeles Angels and must be on the 25-man roster all season, or the White Sox would have to offer him back. He also appears to be the only middle infielder they are comfortable with as a reserve.
Ventura has been playing Brent Morel at shortstop early in camp to see if he can provide some flexibility. How his back and bat respond, though, is unknown. Early indications are that his back is fine, but he is hitting .200 in 20 at-bats this spring.
Conor Gillaspie is hitting .357 going into Monday's action, but cannot play second base or shortstop. If he beats out Morel, the Sox would be forced to carry a total of four bench players—Sanchez, Gillaspie, Hector Gimenez and Dewayne Wise.
That leaves the White Sox with room for only 12 pitchers. Santiago—because he can do so many things—has to be the 12th guy.
This is all assuming that Dylan Axelrod opens the season as the long-relief man in the bullpen. That seems like a safe assumption, though.
Not only can Axelrod pitch in long relief or spot start, but he has been nearly untouchable so far this spring. He boasts a 0.00 ERA while leading the White Sox in innings pitched (five) and strikeouts (six).
More will be revealed as spring training progresses, but it looks like Veal might not be on the South Side when the season begins.
*Statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com.
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