Pirates' Veal to have Tommy John surgery

Top pick Sanchez hit in head; Lincoln would love to face Strasburg

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Donnie Veal, one the Pirates' top pitching prospects at Class AAA Indianapolis, will have Tommy John surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow, and he will miss the rest of the 2010 season.

Veal was diagnosed by the team with damage to the ulnar collateral ligament earlier in the week, then received a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. Andrews will perform the surgery.

The general recovery period from Tommy John is more than a year, but the Pirates are reserving comment on a timetable until after the surgery.

"I'll be back," Veal said Thursday night. "I'll come back even stronger, ready to pitch."

Veal, 25, was with the Pirates last season as a Rule 5 draft pick and had a 7.16 ERA in 19 relief appearances, improving as the summer progressed. Management was pleased enough that he was moved back to a starting role and, in nine starts with Indianapolis, was 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA.

Veal said he felt discomfort in the elbow only in his final two starts last week.

"And it was never like I got to the point where I couldn't throw," he said. "But they checked it out, found the partial tear, and thought it was best to go after it this way than to just rehab it and wait."

Also in the system Thursday night ...

• Catcher Tony Sanchez, the Pirates' first-round draft pick last summer, was hit in the head by a pitch in his second at-bat for high Class A Bradenton.

He left the game immediately but did not need to go to the hospital right away, and initial indications were that the injury is not serious, director of development Kyle Stark said.

• Starter Brad Lincoln, the system's top pitching prospect, continued to shine for Class AAA Indianapolis, pitching six scoreless innings -- four hits, six strikeouts -- in a 4-0 shutout at Gwinnett, Ga.

He is 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA, and his turn lines up with the Pirates' glaring vacancy Tuesday to face Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg in D.C.

Could it happen?

Lincoln, known throughout his time in the system for being "Texas tough," as field coordinator Jeff Banister once called him, told reporters at the game he would welcome it.

"If I get that call, it would be very exciting," Lincoln said. "That opportunity would be something I'd remember for the rest of my life, not only making my debut, but also going against someone that is as hyped up as he is."

And on his level of readiness to come up: "I've been tasting it for the last month, just getting prepared for that next level. Right now, I feel I can go out there and compete with the best of them. I've always been that way. I've always been that type of guy who wants to be there in that big situation and go against the best and, hopefully, I get that chance soon."

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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