Pitchers warming up for an approaching start need to make the most of their time before the first pitch. Having an efficient bullpen session prior to taking the mound can help you better prepare for opposing batters. And to make the most of your pre-game work, you need to have a plan.
Professional pitcher Tim Melville says adding a sense of realism to your pitching practice can help you get ready to take the field. Discover his strategy and how you can shape your pre-game routine with these pitching tips.
Naturally, the point of a strong pre-game routine is to get yourself warm and ready for gameplay. But you shouldn’t jump into a bullpen session and use that as your lone warmup. Throwing and stretching before a bullpen session can help you stay healthy and allow your arm to get up to pitching speed. This can help you avoid being too aggressive as you try and prepare for the opposing lineup.
Your warmup does not have to be too extensive but long enough to get you to a comfortable level. Melville says he prefers warming up with roughly 15 pitches before getting into his game plan.
Once you’re ready to begin your bullpen session, Melville says to think about the first three opposing batters. “And my goal as a pitcher – especially a starter – is to throw first-pitch strikes and to get hitters out with three pitches or less,” he says.
In addition to the 15 warmup pitches, Melville says to aim for a 12-pitch bullpen. With these 12 pitches, you should look to work your first three batters in a simulated inning. “I’m working about three hitters. And sometimes, you go behind in the count with it,” he says. “I might throw three balls in a row and then I’ll have to battle back with that hitter with me and my catcher before the game.”
Even if you’re focused on pitching to your first three opponents, bullpen pitching still lacks the in-game atmosphere. Two of the main components missing are the live batter and an umpire calling balls and strikes. However, to help ensure as close to a simulation as possible, your catcher can sub in for both.
When you pitch in your bullpen simulation, have your catcher call balls and strikes. This can allow you to keep tally of your pitches and resemble the rhythm of an actual game. It can also be helpful to have your catcher mix up calls and challenge you on the mound.
“It’s as realistic as possible and sometimes I might only get through one hitter, or two hitters with 12 pitches,” Melville says. “I might throw a pitch that’s 2-2 and the catcher’s like, ‘Oh, he fouled that off. Oh, he’s battling you right now.’ You have to make it as game-like as possible.”
In addition to ball and strike calls, you should also focus on your pre-pitch breathing and routine. Get your sign from your catcher, come to your set stance and count your breaths. “You can sit there and count your breaths down to three breaths in-between pitches if you feel like that’s most comfortable for you,” Melville says. “And that will allow you just more consistency and confidence moving into the game that you’re about to play in.”
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