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Pitching Easy Pointer #16, March 25, 2024 - Game Day Pitcher's Guide for Starters and Relievers


Starting Pitchers:

  • Clear your mind – keep outside distractions to a minimum. You get to play baseball for the next few hours – enjoy the challenge.
  • Have a jacket or hoodie with you (warm or cold weather).
  • If it is cold, bring gloves with you.
  • Check the flag/where is the wind blowing from? If it’s blowing in, let them hit the fastball a little more into that wind.  If blowing out, be ready to have your breaking stuff moving more than usual.  Save these thoughts for key moments in the game.
  • How deep are the gaps in left center/right center? Remember the deepest parts of the OF.  You may need to pitch hitters to the deepest part of the field in a tight spot.
  • If you can, watch opponents BP. Who are the big swingers? 
  • If you know the other team well, think about who you don’t want to beat you. How will you pitch them in tight situations? 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to warm up. If your team is in a rush because of travel problems, they should give you enough time to warm up.
  • Warm up at a comfortable pace.
  • You may want to throw a bit, take a few minutes break, then resume throwing. It is a personal preference.
  • If you like to have a few minutes to sit in the dugout before the game or like to go from the bullpen to the mound (home game) adjust your pregame routine.
  • If you are the away team, make sure you don’t finish too soon before the game. You may find you need to continue to warm up even as your team is at bat in the first inning.
  • Jog/Sprint/stretch/Jump/Pushups all in short bursts to get the heart rate up.
  • Feel good posture as you begin playing catch.
  • Spin your pitches playing catch on flat ground. Feel your release.
  • Keep good form in long toss on game day. If you like to let it fly high and far, get back to good form as you go to your pull downs.
  • Give any tightness time to work itself out in warmups. Don’t panic if you begin your warmup feeling sluggish.
  • Start with 4-seam grip/get it going down the middle. Even if you are a 2-seam sinker type guy (I was).  Everything begins off the 4-seamer.
  • If you’re having trouble with command/move in closer for a few throws. It’s important to find your release.
  • Stay on the mound/let your catcher come close to you when you need to shorten up.
  • The first 15 minutes or so should be at 75%-80% effort.
  • Work pitch combinations, i.e. fb followed by ch, or sinker followed by slider, elevated fb and overhand cb…find your tunnels.
  • If you can get a teammate to stand in as a batter, do it.
  • Work some simulated batters and take an extra 60 seconds, play to move your feet and play fast catch with your catcher. Move like an infielder, pick up a ground ball, be athletic for one minute.  Get your heart beating faster.  Now you are ready!

Game time:

  • Remember, the first inning could feel totally different than your pregame bullpen, don’t panic and adjust to whatever is working. Get out of the first inning in any way you can.  You likely will get into the flow of the game by inning two.  Keep first inning damage to a minimum.
  • Make adjustments, make adjustments, make adjustments. If you are losing the fastball arm side, think about rotating your torso a bit more as you throw.  Stay in sync.  If you are bouncing in the dirt, think about pressing your back foot into the ground longer as your throw…it will keep your center of gravity back longer.
  • Keep trying out there. Sometimes you may feel like nothing is working, but keep mixing pitches and fight to keep the inning manageable.
  • Stay away from an 8 run inning. One or two runs is ok, it happens.  Keep it under control. You never know if the runner you leave on third base would have been the winning run. 
  • Use your pickoff move, whether it is good or not. Let runners know you aren’t afraid to pick off.
  • Hold the ball in the stretch with runners on, vary your times. Slow the running game down.
  • Slow the game down when guys get on base, don’t panic. The old saying is, “win fast, lose slow”.  Keep that in mind. 
  • Keep your composure, always. Keep the fire burning inside of you, but save your energy for your pitching, not the other team.
  • Know what your best pitch is and know that, when the pressure situation arises, you will go with your best! Some days, your best could be your secondary pitch, you should know that as the game goes on.  Don’t second guess yourself.  Pitch with conviction when you throw the pressure pitch.
  • You may feel terrible in pregame and go out there finding your rhythm, stay with it and don’t stop working.
  • Your job is to keep your team in the game for as long as possible. Stay away from big innings, don’t take any runners for granted.  If one run scores, don’t let five more come in.  Keep working.
  • If you are missing inside/outside, chances are you are over-rotating. Keep your front shoulder quiet and on the target.  Look down the glove side arm and stay on target as long as you can.
  • If you are missing high/low, it is likely a balance and timing issue. Press the center of your back foot pushing into the ground.  It will hold your center of gravity longer down the slope.  Feel your arm and head turning in sync.  Feel the lead foot on the ground then turn the torso in one piece. 
  • Use between innings warmup time to find any pitches you may not have working well on that day. If you don’t have a feel for the change up, throw 3 or 4 of them in the next inning’s warm up.  There is a good chance you will find that pitch you need in the middle of the game…Keep looking for it.
  • Go as long as you can, under control. Keep your team in the game.
  • After the game, do some post-game flush work either in the dugout, on the field immediately after the game, or at home (band work, light dumbbells, med ball, some sprinting).
  • Get ready for your next start! Think about what you did today and begin the preparation and correction work toward the next game.

Relief pitchers:

  • Keep your head in the game.
  • It is important to follow the game whether you are in the dugout or bullpen.
  • Study the opposing hitters in game situations. You could be facing them with the winning run on third.  How will you pitch them?  Watch how your teammates are pitching to them.
  • Who is a first-pitch hitter?
  • As the starter or current pitcher is out there, be aware of the situation. If he is struggling or at the end of his pitch count, get your body moving.
  • Don’t wait for the coaches to tell you to get hot in the pen – stay ahead of the situation and be ready. Even if you aren’t called in.
  • It is better to be ready and not get called in than to think like you never going in and then find yourself in the game.
  • Keep all warmups at 75%, once the coach goes out and it looks like you are in, ramp it up for 4 or 5, then go in…don’t forget that you still have eight warmup pitches to amp it up once you are in there. You will be ready.
  • If you need time to warm up, start playing catch lightly on your own, keep the muscles ready. If you heat up quickly, don’t overthrow, save your energy.
  • Follow the game, don’t be surprised to get ready quickly.
  • Warm up the outfielder between innings to keep your arm warm.
  • Once you are told to get warmed up, start finding the fb location immediately.
  • Don’t worry about your motion initially, get the arm moving and throw strikes. It is important to feel the ball first, get the arm moving quickly.  Then get to the stretch and feel the body working.  You still get your eight warmups too.
  • When you warm up out of the pen. Focus on your best two pitches, especially in a close game.  Go with your best.
  • If it is a long relief assignment, you will be more like a starter, using the whole arsenal, but remember to go with your best when pressure is on.
  • The first hitter you face is so important. Remember, he is likely hunting for a first pitch fastball.  Be aware.  Make a good pitch, go with your best stuff!
  • Get used to holding the ball in the stretch, with runners on. Your job is to get control of the game right away.  Be patient.
  • Sometimes a pick off move to first (if runner is on base) can loosen you up and ease any nervousness.
  • Don’t rush things with runners on and in a tight situation. You are called in to sway momentum back to your team.  You are now in control of the game.
  • After the game, it is important to do a good flush out, like a starter (see above). You have a chance, as a reliever, to be in very soon to do your job, take care of your body, be ready!


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