Pitchers Need Practice Too
How to create a practice plan for pitchers without changing much at all about what you're already doing.
In many youth baseball and high school baseball practices, it is very difficult to carve out time for the pitchers to get their work in. After the everyday practice plan is created, there is often no room to get the pitchers the extra work they so desperately need.
The reasons why this is challenging are many:
- Pitchers also play other positions
- Arms are sore from pitching and playing other spots
- There isn't enough coaching help to split off the pitchers for their own practice
- There aren't enough catchers to work with the pitchers
- Scheduling pitchers' game innings is impossible, so they must be ready to go all the time
- Facilities are small and it's hard to find the room
There are many more reasons as well, but this is a pretty good start for our purposes.
With all of these limitations in mind, the real challenge for a coach is creating a practice plan for pitchers that fits directly inside the practice time and layout they already use.
First things first, pitching is about more than throwing pitches. A pitcher does not have to throw a bullpen or to live hitters to get better. Here are some other areas that pitchers need to work on consistently:
- Bunt defense
- Fielding practice on ground balls
- Pick off moves
- Strength and fitness
- Mental game and strategic training
- Home plate covering on wild pitches
If your pitchers never threw a pitch between starts, but instead worked only on those things they would become much better pitchers.
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So even if your pitchers aren't able to get to the bullpen and throw to a catcher, that doesn't mean they can't work on all the other stuff that will make them better on the mound.
The quick and simple tip that we have for your today, is to start thinking of fitting pitching practice into stuff you already do. Look at the list of things above and find ways to work on those things during the course of normal baseball practice.
Instead of just bunting on the field, have a few pitchers on the mound and have them make a live play on the first bunt from each hitter. There doesn't need to be any major changes to bunting practice to accommodate this, and your pitchers will benefit a lot more from those reps than from no reps at all.
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In the next one (fielding practice for pitchers), we discuss putting pitchers on the mound during infield practice. This is also a great time to incorporate bunt defense for the pitchers.
Fielding Practice For Pitchers
For some reason, a traditional infield fungo session typically includes every position except the pitcher. By changing this, your pitchers can gain dozens of additional reps without breaking the pace of your traditional practice routine.
Have your pitchers rotate to and from the mound and their other positions. Include pitcher plays to every base and you'll be giving all the infielders good looks at those plays as well, not just the pitcher. It's tough to turn a double play on a ball back to the pitcher, this is a great time to work on it.
Pick Off Moves
The most important thing to consider here is that your pitchers don't have to be on a mound to practice pick off moves. The best time to incorporate these into your normal practice time is to do it during the warm up as part of the throwing progression.
On the way back in from warming up their arms, pitchers should practice pick off footwork and throws with their partners. They don't even have to be playing catch with another pitcher, in fact it might help even more to have a first baseman or middle infielder receiving the pick off throws.
Strength and Fitness
This one is a huge factor in pitching success, so anytime a pitcher can get extra work at it, they should. Set up a plan for your pitchers before the season starts that allows them to get a little bit extra done during the warm up. While the rest of team might only do a two or three minute plyo or sprinting series for example, your pitchers can do a five minute routine.
While this little bit of added time might not seem like much, it most certainly adds up. Again, the critical piece here is that we're trying to get our pitchers extra work inside the traditional practice set up. Every rep counts, every sprint counts, everything we can do to make them better, we should do.
Mental Game and Strategic Training For Pitchers
The mental game for pitchers is something that can be worked on all the time. In the interest of fitting our practice plan for pitchers right inside the practice we're already doing, let's involve our pitchers in hitting practice.
One of the best places to do this is front toss, if you're already doing it. If not, then regular BP is a great option as well, although this can cause the pitcher to throw more baseballs than we would like, which is why we like short toss better.
Simply tossing balls to hitters teaches the thrower a lot. The pitchers will get to see what hitters do to hit outside pitches, why it's effective to go in and out unpredictably, how changing speeds works, what certain hitters like to hit and what they don't, and the list goes on and on. We love having our pitchers be the guys who throw our short toss because it's another great way to create better pitchers without changing your practice format.
Home Plate Covering On Wild Pitches
Some things seem almost impossible to work on without breaking the pitchers and catchers off for their own practice time, but some creativity can go a long way. In our practice plan for pitchers, we incorporate this one right into our infield/outfield practice sessions.
Remember that we have our pitchers rotating on and off the mound during our regular fungo sessions. To incorporate passed ball practice for your pitchers and catchers, just make a certain fungo series the ones where they simulate a passed ball.
For example, every ball that is hit to the outfield (and is not being relayed home) can be a passed ball for your pitcher and catcher. The pitcher simply sees the ball hit to the outfield and covers home for a catcher who is running back to the screen to grab a ball (or he just has ball in hand to begin with).
The two players will get a great rep, and be back in place by the time the ball works its' way back in from the outfield.
A practice plan for pitchers is really just your normal practice plan
There are some bigger programs who have a lot of pitcher-only types, and several coaches who can take them over to the pens whenever they need to get their work in.
For many programs and coaches however, the reality is that a lot has to be done with very little. We hope that the tips we've given on how to create a practice plan for pitchers will help coaches find ways to do just that. There are many ways to creatively mix your pitchers into the practices you're already doing.