Starting Pitcher Pre-Game Routine

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Introduction

I talked last week about what a typical week will look like for a starting pitcher. In this post I am going to talk specifically about the pre-game routine on a start day. I will discuss things such as goal setting, the warm up, plyo ball routine, throwing routine, bullpen routine prior to taking the field, and a sample pre-game schedule you can follow.

Goal Setting

I think it is extremely important to set goals for yourself before every outing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the day of a game, this is just how I have done it personally. When setting goals for yourself try to make them as clear as you can and not completely result oriented because you don’t always have control over that. Another thing to keep in mind is to not set too many goals. Have 2-3 things that you want to be your focus. A lot of the time these goals will be based on what you felt you needed to improve upon from the previous week. Ideas of goals you could use would be first pitch strike percentage, percentage of off-speed thrown for a strike, setting a goal for putting batters away with 2 strikes, zero stolen bases, lead off out percentage, ground ball percentage, shutdown innings after your team scores, etc. Once you have set your goals be sure to evaluate them and write down notes after the game.

Warm Up

Start with getting some blood flow with things like foam rolling, lacrosse ball rollout, and items like a TheraGun if you have access to it. You are really just starting to get everything moving and releasing any tension you might have that day.

After you have completed your SMR (self myofascial release) work you will than move onto the mobility and stability part of the warm up. Exercises you could do for this include thoracic spine rotations, hip adductor stretch, upward rotation, bird dogs, hip ir/er, etc. There are a lot of options for this so try different exercises and see what you like the best.

Once you have completed the mobility and stability section, next is the dynamic warm up. Here we are moving at a faster pace really starting to challenge different positions and movements. In this section you can do things like shuffles, carioca, lunges, RDL’s, broad jump, sprints, etc.

The next step is to move into the band work. I like to use the Jaeger bands, but if you like using something like the crossover symmetry bands that is fine as well. With the bands you will do things involving internal and external rotation of the shoulder, overhead tricep extensions, forward and backward flies, and a bicep curl with pronation variation.

Once you have completed the bands you will move onto the wrist weight series, which includes, pronation swings, cuban press, two-hand throws, and pivot picks. These are all great exercises to warm up the shoulder and elbow in a dynamic way.

The next exercise you will move onto is the shoulder tube series. Here were are working on shoulder stabilization in a dynamic manner. You will be putting your arm in numerous positions to warm up the shoulder.

After the shoulder tube you will move onto a drop ball series with a 2-4 pound plyo ball. All we are trying to do here is quickly turn on and off the shoulder.

The last warm up exercise before moving onto the plyo ball series are the rebounders. Here we are working on force acceptance in the elbow and shoulder. This is often used post throwing, but I also like the use of it prior to throwing.

Plyo Ball Routine

This section is only for pitchers that utilize plyo balls as a part of their program. I think it is important to use them even on game days to continue working on the correct movement patterns, as well as prepping the arm prior to throwing. We will limit the volume and gradually build up the intensity.

An example pre-game plyo ball routine could look like this:

Reverse Throws - 2x10 2lb.

Pivot Pickoffs - 1x10 2lb. and 1lb.

Roll Ins - 1x5 1lb., 7.5oz, 5.3oz

Rockers - 1 set 1lb., 7.5oz, 5.3oz, 3.5 oz

Walking Wind Up - 1 set 1lb., 7.5oz, 5.3oz, 3.5 oz

Throwing Routine

After the warm up is done along with the plyo throws, the pitcher should be feeling completely warmed up and ready to start throwing the baseball. I like to start the throwing session with a few drills that are similar to the plyo balls.

Starting at about 50-60 feet I like to have guys start with staggered torso throws. These are similar to the pivot picks, but I want the thrower to have his feet closer to being squared at the target. From there the pitcher will move into a rocker throw, step back, and easy leg lift. Let the pitcher decide for the most part what drills he wants to do at this point. Allow him to do what feels good, but also what he needs to work on. If it is someone that needs to work on loading into the glute, have him work on step backs more.

After the drill series is done, have the pitcher do his leg lift out to about 90 feet. Once he reaches 90 feet start incorporating a shuffle throw out to his desired distance. We want guys to get air under the ball during the extension phase. On game days some guys like to go out to max distance while others like to limit the distance. Let the pitcher dictate his distance on start days. Once he reaches his distance for the day, begin coming in throwing the ball on a line. Do about 3-5 of these pulldown throws on the way in.

Once he gets back to 60 feet have the pitcher throw a 8-10 pitch flat ground primarily to spin a few breaking balls and throw a few change ups before getting on the mound.

Bullpen

After the pitcher completes his throwing, have him get some water and relax for about 5 minutes before taking the mound. Once the pitcher starts throwing, begin with 3 fastballs to both sides of the plate then proceed with 3-4 change ups glove side. The reason I like to start the change up glove in the bullpen is because it forces you to stay connected longer and to have your arm on time. I see too many guys miss up and away arm side with the change up early on. Over exaggerate right away and feel yourself throwing the change up out front. The last piece is to mix in your breaking balls.

Once the pitcher has throw all of his pitches out of the stretch and wind up, I like to finish with 1-2 batters preferably with someone standing in or a dummy to replicate the game like feel. You can honestly have someone stand in the whole time if you would like.

Sample Pre-Game Routine

  • Set Goals for the Game (10-15 minutes)

  • Warm Up Routine (30 minutes)

    • SMR Work

    • Mobility and Stability

    • Dynamic

    • Arm Care (bands, wrist weights, shoulder tube, drop catches, rebounders)

  • PlyoCare Routine (10-15 minutes)

  • Throwing Progression (10-15 minutes)

  • Bullpen (10-15 minutes)

Wrapping Things Up

In conclusion, this is just one way you can approach your pre-game warm up. The important thing is to have a consistent routine that you can follow. Having a routine that you follow will give you confidence and make you feel more comfortable for games on the road. Routine brings familiarity.

Let me know what your thoughts are and if you have any questions please email us at info@gaynorstrength-pitching.com



-Jared