Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Getting pitchers ready for the season

November 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Coaching, Off-Season, Pitching

The other day I received a great question from a reader.  Because many coaches deal with this issue, I asked permission to use the question and my response in a post.  The reader was willing so here it is!

Reader: I wanted to know if you have any advice on how to transition our pitchers from 4 inning per game limits to 7 inning per game limits? I understand that it is not innings but number of pitches that is the most important. Our players were 12u last year and were only allowed to pitch 4 innings and most fatigued out at 70 pitches or so. Next season (13u – 2013) we can pitch up to 7 innings so I need to increase our pitchers stamina keeping pitch counts over innings in mind of course.

We start practicing the first week of January with typically 3 practices per week and transitioning into 4 per week mid February until games start in mid April. What do you recommend we try to incorporate into our practice schedule to achieve a pitching staff with length? None of us coaches are pitching experts. Most practices will be indoors.  Any advice would be helpful

 My response: Developing pitchers in the off-season is a difficult process because you need space and time both of which are tough to get during indoor winter workouts.  That being said, I think I would generally map out the following schedule for your pitchers based on a mid-April start.

 January and February: Long-toss and mechanical work.  The long-tossing will increase arm strength over time which is what they will need to throw more pitches.  The mechanical work is to improve efficiency so that they are in the strike zone more and not wasting pitches.  No throwing needs to occur during mechanical work.  Light throwing is ok but the emphasis should be on mechanics, balance, etc. and not velocity.

March: I would start bullpen sessions – throwing to a catcher with more velocity.  The arm strength and stamina phase hopefully occurred during January and February.  Now it’s time to start pitching to get ready for the season.  In this month, I would have each pitcher throw one bullpen session (gradually increasing the pitches) per week and a good long-toss session in that week as well – maybe two days in between the two.  Stagger the days so not every pitcher has to throw on the same day. (ex. Monday-Thurs; Tues-Fri; Wed-Sat, etc)

End of March to when games start: I would have my pitchers on a three day schedule.  Day 1 would be a long bullpen session to mimic a real game (maybe 50+ pitches by the start of games).  Day 2 would be a short bullpen session (maybe 10-15 pitches) that focus mostly on mechanics and location.  Day 3 would be a long-toss session.  The three days could be broken up into a Mon, Wed, Fri schedule for example.

This should be able to get your pitchers ready.  A few other things to consider …

  • If you have multiple coaches, I’d have one guy be in charge of all the pitching.  He does’t have to be a pitching expert.  He just has to be able to manage the schedule and monitor each pitchers progress in terms of number of pitches, who throws when, etc.
  • Chart all bullpen sessions!!!!  It doesn’t have to be too complicated of a chart.  Just balls and strikes.  After a bullpen is finished, the pitcher can see how many strikes vs balls they threw.  60-70% is the goal.  More strikes = more innings!
  • You can easily long-toss in a gym by making a few adjustments.  Click HERE to see how.
  • Adjust the schedule as needed.  There is no perfect, one size fits all routine.  Trust your instincts and be flexible along the way if you feel something needs to be tweaked.


Follow Up:


One thing that I failed to mention in my response to the question was the importance of creating a running program for your pitchers.  As many already know, the first thing to go on a pitcher is often his legs.  Tired legs put more stress on the arm.  More stress on the arm prevents pitchers from throwing as much as they could have.  A good, general endurance program that includes running and/or bike work keep the legs stronger which will add to a pitcher’s ability to throw more pitches and more innings before tiring.

As always, if anyone else has a question, shoot it my way.  I may be able to help!

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