Pirates aren't out of the woods with Veal yet

The Pittsburgh Pirates placed 2009 Rule 5 draft pick Donald Veal on the 15-day DL today with a strained left index finger. To fill Veal’s spot, they purchased the contract of relief pitcher Chris Bootcheck, adding Bootcheck to the 40-man roster, which had an open spot. First, a bit on Bootcheck…

Bootcheck was a first round pick in the 2000 MLB draft, taken with the 20th overall pick by the Angels. In his career, Bootcheck has pitched 132.2 innings, mostly in relief, with a 6.04 ERA, 6.2 K/9 ratio, and a 1.67 K/BB ratio. Bootcheck has done well at Indianapolis this year, pitching 42.2 innings with a 3.38 ERA, and a 55:7 K/BB ratio, with 20 saves.

Bootcheck has three years and six days of major league service time, according to my records, which means the Pirates have him under control for three more seasons beyond the 2009 season, all arbitration years. I’ve updated the 25-man roster, 2009 40-man roster/payroll, and the payroll commitments chart with the move.

As for Veal, this is his second trip to the disabled list this season, which helps the Pirates to keep him in the system. As a Rule 5 pick, Veal needs to spend the entire season in the majors, or be offered back to the Chicago Cubs for $25,000, which is half of the cost to draft Veal.

Since Veal is on the 15-day DL, he can’t be activated until the 22nd of August, although he could be kept on the DL beyond those 15-days. Once Veal begins a rehab assignment, he can spend up to a maximum of 30 days in the minors on that rehab assignment before getting the call to the majors.

Thanks to Baseball Prospectus’ Will Carroll (aka, the injuryexpert on Twitter), I know that there’s no deadline to place a player on rehab assignment when on the 15-day DL. So, in theory, the Pirates could start Veal’s rehab assignment on September 5th, thus allowing them to keep Veal in the minors on rehab through the remainder of the season, right? Wrong.

There’s a rule that a lot of people don’t know in regards to the Rule 5 draft. In order to avoid teams stashing a player on the DL all season (not that the Pirates are doing anything like that), a player has to stay on the active roster for 90 total days. If a player does not spend 90 days on the active roster, they must spend the remaining days on the active roster the following season.

Right now Veal has 85 days on the active roster, putting him five days short. If Veal were to spend the rest of the season on the DL, he would need to spend the first five days of the 2010 season on the major league roster, thus fulfilling the requirements of the Rule 5 selection.

I don’t think this will be an issue. The MLB rosters expand on September 1st. This recent move actually helps the Pirates. They can stash Veal on the 15-day DL until September 1st, then activate him when the rosters expand, thus allowing them to easily hide Veal on the active roster for the remainder of the season, fulfilling the Rule 5 requirements, without taking up a valuable bullpen spot.

Other 40-Man Roster Notes:

-Phil Dumatrait started his rehab assignment on July 21st, which means he will have to come off the disabled list by August 20th. Dumatrait is currently on the 60-day disabled list, which means he doesn’t count against the current 40-man roster. However, with no open spots on the 40-man roster, a spot would need to be cleared. That doesn’t seem to be a problem, since Tyler Yates, who recently had Tommy John surgery, can be moved to the 60-day DL.

Dumatrait will need to move to the 25-man roster, which raises a question of who to send down. Sending down Jeff Karstens, Joel Hanrahan, or Jesse Chavez would burn an option. Evan Meek has used an option, but it would be foolish to send him down. Chris Bootcheck is out of options and can’t be sent down without passing through waivers. That leaves Jose Ascanio as the only option to be sent down, since Ascanio has already burned an option for this season.

If Ascanio is sent down on August 20th, he could be recalled on September 1st, when rosters expand, after spending the minimum of ten days in the minors after being optioned down. Unless an injury occurs, this seems like the most likely scenario.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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