A Pitcher's Pre-Game Routine
A recommended routine for pitchers before they take the mound
On game day, the pitcher bears a lot of responsibility on the outcome of a game. A team relies on their pitcher to bring a competitive intensity to the mound, one that requires preparation. Prior to toeing the rubber to start any game, the pitcher should have a well-defined routine to get themselves physically and mentally ready to pitch.
BE WELL RESTED
It takes a lot of energy to pitch. While other positions have moments in between their chances to make an impact, the pitcher remains the central focus of the opposition throughout the game. While this section will primarily focus on the pitchers’ approach at the ball park prior to the game starting, in reality the preparation for a start begins when the last start ends. It’s imperative that the day before a start includes proper hydration practices and 8-10 hours of sleep. Making sure your arm and body receive proper rest in between outings is essential to your success and to helping ensure a healthy career. More information on recommended rest guidelines for pitchers can be found at pitchsmart.org.
HAVE A TIMED ROUTINE
Now that game day is here, the pitcher will want to employ a timed routine prior to seeing game action. This routine should be defined and should work backwards off of the planned time of the first pitch. The plan should include some oversight from a coach and at a minimum need to be communicated to the pre-game catcher (which may differ from the game catcher). Working within a defined sequence will not only get the pitcher physically loose but will enable him to work towards the mental progression of getting focused for the game.
GET YOUR BODY WARMED UP
A proper warm up is essential to any position on the field, and the pitcher is no different. The dynamic or static stretching routine, with some light cardio work, is the first step in getting ready to take the mound. Some pitchers will opt for additional methods of getting loose, including band work. At a minimum, the warm-up and stretching routine for the pitcher should be as extensive as any other pre-activity stretch and usually more-so prior to a start.
PLAY CATCH BEFORE TAKING THE MOUND
On game day, a common mistake made by young pitchers is an anxiousness to jump right on the mound without playing proper catch. More than any other day, it’s imperative that a full throwing program be employed prior to a start. An interval throwing program that stretches out further than the mound distance should be used. It’s also acceptable to work on the flat ground prior to moving to the bullpen, emphasizing any mechanical points before getting ready for the game. The mound work done prior to a start is as much about getting the mechanics and pitch variety down for the day as it is about actually warming up.
HAVE A PLAN IN THE BULLPEN
Now that the pitcher is feeling loose, it’s time to get game ready to take the mound. It’s a big day, it’s game day, let’s have a plan and not just make it up as we go along. It’s important that the pitcher prepares for the variety of situations he may find himself in during the game, without overdoing it in the bullpen. Pitches thrown in the bullpen should be counted for accuracy (but not added to the game count). A simple pre-game plan should include throwing out of the wind up and the stretch, as both situations will likely arise during the game. Mixing locations is another important element to pre-game, with pitchers working arm side as well as the cross-corner of the plate. Be sure to begin working off an established fastball and then begin mixing in other pitches – including secondary pitches with mixed location. Finally, a pitcher may opt to actually work a simulated hitter or two prior to leaving the bullpen. This simulation can be coupled with providing the pitcher with a scouting report on the opposing team. The pitcher should be loose by the time he’s done, but also confident in his abilities.
STAY FOCUSED PRIOR TO ENTERING THE GAME
The pitcher is hot, has completed a good warm-up, looked good in the bullpen and now has to wait. This is an important time to stay focused, stay warm and work on staying hydrated. The time for breaking down mechanics and talking game strategy have passed. At this point, the pitcher wants to maintain a calm and confident approach to the task at hand.