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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pitchers: Pre-game routine (Part 1)

Two MLB starters.  Both have a personalized
routine that gets them fully prepared to be
100% at the first pitch of the game.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Going into his fifth start of this 2011 season, Cincinnatti Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez had a 1st inning ERA of 29.25.  Prior to his latest start, the announcers talked quite a bit about what causes pitchers to have so much difficulty in the first inning.  They also mentioned that the pitching coach had been working with him on some adjustments to his pre-game routine both physically and mentally.   This problem with Volquez is actually more common among starting pitchers than a lot of fans realize.  This phenomena is especially true at the high school level mainly because many pitchers do not warm up properly.   There are a couple times during the course of a game when pitchers are at their most vulnerable.  The first inning is usually at the top of that list.  However, with a few adjustments and a little more focus during their pre-game routines, many pitchers can eliminate or at least minimize the vulnerability that comes with not being fully prepared to pitch.  Unfortunately, many losses occur because of what happens in the first couple innings of games.


Below is a pre-game schedule for a starting pitcher in a game that starts at 3:45pm (our start times).  A pitcher certainly can adjust the times to fit any game time if needed.  Below the schedule are some additional thoughts on the process.



3:05 - 3:15            
  • Jog to centerfield and back
  • Sprints – start with some short sprints (90 ft) and finish with a couple long ones (150’)
  • Dynamic stretching of the arm and legs

3:15 – 3:25           
  • Short toss – play catch to loosen the arm 
  • Long toss – Gradually move back to about 90-100 feet (all line-drive throws, no big arcs)

3:25 – 3:40           
  • 45’ toss – catcher down.  Working on location using full mechanics
  • 75’ toss – gradually work back to 75’ toss, still with catcher down, working on location, full mechanics
  • On mound –  throwing routine (this will be tomorrow's post!)

3:40 - 3:45            
  • Go to the bench, drink some water, put a jacket on, rest, and focus


Pre-Game Routine Notes:
  • The days of grabbing a ball and a catcher and throwing for 5 minutes before game time ended in Little League.  The 40 minute routine above allows a pitcher to get fully prepared both physically and mentally before starting the game.
  • Whether a pitcher is throwing short toss, long toss, or on the mound, he is always focusing on his command and throwing to a location.
  • Whenever a pitcher is using his full set of mechanics he should be throwing to a catcher who is squatting down.  Play catch (without full mechanics) with the catcher standing but when you are pitching (using mechanics) he gets down.  This gets the body used to throwing downhill in the lower part of the strike zone.  Pitching to a standing catcher promotes a pitch that is chest high which is a BALL in every high school league on Earth.
  • The routine above allows pitchers to work on multiple things at the same time which saves pitches and energy.  He is never just throwing.  When he throws he is loosening his arm, focussing on location and command, reminding his body of the proper mechanics and release point, and he is throwing downhill.  Only focusing on one of those things at a time considerably lengthens the warm-up process.
  • Finally, he wraps up his routine with NO MORE THAN 5 -10 minutes before game time.  Anything more and the pitcher's arm and body starts to cool down too much.  This is especially true if he is on the away team that bats first.  Proper timing is a must.
  • Every pitcher is different so the routine and timing above can be tweaked to fit the needs of each unique pitcher.  The key point is to develop some kind of a routine that allows you to be prepared and be at your best from the first pitch of the game.

Tomorrow:  Part 2 - Pre-game pitching routine - pitch by pitch!


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