CHICAGO -- Left-hander Donnie Veal has thrown two pain-free bullpen sessions during the Pirates' current road trip and is scheduled to leave the club on Tuesday to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona.
Veal was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 7 because of a sprained left index finger. On Sunday, the lefty reliever said that the finger is completely healed. Veal will be eligible to come off the DL as early as Friday, though the Pirates are likely to wait until rosters expand on Sept. 1 before bringing him back to the Major League club.
In the meantime, Veal will use his time with the Curve to continue working on a new delivery motion just introduced to him by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. Similar to what Kerrigan has starter Ross Ohlendorf doing now, he has encouraged Veal to come more over his head with his arms when pitching out of the windup. It's a motion that Veal has never tried before.
"It helps me with my rhythm and allows my timing to be the same, which helps with my biggest problem -- consistency," Veal said of his initial feeling on the mechanical adjustment. "It's one of the things where if something is wrong, this delivery will make me feel that it is wrong. There is no throwing the ball and not knowing why or what went wrong."
Veal will continue to work on the altered delivery this fall, as well. The Pirates' plans are for the 24-year-old Rule 5 Draft pick to be among the players the organization sends to the Arizona Fall League. While AFL rosters have not yet been finalized, Veal is expected to be accepted and pitch out of the rotation, a role the Pirates want to ease him back into next year.
"I think that's what we're looking for," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I told [general manager] Neal [Huntington] one time that I envision this guy being in our rotation in a couple of years. A physical left-hander that throws hard, they're not easy to find. Again, that's why we picked him up on the Rule 5. We envisioned what he could be."
Veal came up through the Cubs' farm system exclusively as a starter and logged 145 1/3 innings in the 2008 Minor League season. The only way for Pittsburgh to hide Veal on the Major League roster this year and therefore ensure he remain in the organization, though, came as a reliever. As a result, Veal's inning count has dropped to 24 in 2009. That includes his innings with the Pirates and with Triple-A Indianapolis during a previous rehab assignment.
"I need to get innings in, obviously," Veal said. "To go from being a starter to a Rule 5 [pick], there is a pretty big gap in innings. Going to Arizona will give me some time against some quality hitters."
He is not likely to be ready to compete for a spot in the Pirates' starting rotation next year but is a likely fit to start the season in Indianapolis' rotation.
"I think this kid has a great head on his shoulders," Russell said. "To go through what he's gone through this year -- being a Rule 5 [pick], the adversities of injury, bouncing back -- he's been outstanding. I don't think you could have asked for anything more."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.