Have you ever wondered why pitchers don’t focus on hitting or playing other positions once they sign a professional contract? I think it’s important when a pitcher plays in the minor leagues and in high school to really have the opportunity to play a lot of positions. They have the opportunity to learn other baseball skills like fielding the ball correctly, thinking about how other players think in different game situations, etc.
Because most pitchers are tall, you’ll see a lot of them play first base, especially lefties, of course; if they don’t release that game. However, there comes a time when a pitcher is just a pitcher and it makes logical sense. I hope many coaches and parents read this article and think about the ramifications of the pitcher/position player mentality in youth baseball.
Coaches need to understand that youth pitching requires a little more attention than it has been given. Coaches need to have a clearer understanding of pitch counts at different age levels and how much position each pitcher can play in a given week if their pitch count is high.
What kills me is when coaches have their pitchers play long pitches with the entire team during team warmups, the day after the pitcher throws more than 100 pitches in a game. Even if a pitcher throws a good 75 pitches, he shouldn’t be throwing long pitches the next day with the team. They should be in the rebuild phase of the release cycle. There has to be a period of recovery and rebuilding of the tendons and ligaments that support the muscle fibers and connective tissues. The recovery period varies with each pitcher and with many different game situations and scenarios.
Here are some simple guidelines to follow when coaching pitchers who play other positions.
I received some of this valuable information by going to a pitch camp held by Tom House in 2007; I think that is very precise and wise advice to follow. I’ve also experienced some of that when my coaches didn’t fully understand what pitchers really go through.
1. If a pitcher starts a game, he must not be allowed to play another position that day unless he does not make it past the first inning.
2. If a pitcher has more pitches in a game, he should have fewer swings. I remember experiencing elbow pain a handful of times when he was swinging the bat after throwing a lot. If you think your launchers can handle that amount of work in a day, give it a try yourself. You will feel the pain too; not nice at all. Take care of his arms.
3. If a pitcher throws a lot, he should also get very little playing time in the infield. Why the inner field? Quick, clumsy, and often hard throws are required! I’d add the outfield to that list because long throws to the plate are tough after throwing a complete game. Coaches then have the same pitcher play a long pitch the next day; my word! Double headers can be tricky to fix; use your best judgment in those cases.
Some coaches and parents think this is a bit over the top and that they are being too soft if they just don’t play much with their kids. I think it does more harm than good to just dump your kids with no prior education. Many of the coaches do the best they can and just don’t know how. Ignorance in this case is not bliss; can be expensive.