Another Wednesday, another scrimmage. Today was a nine inning scrimmage for us, getting nine pitchers an opportunity to get some work in. As has been the norm thus far, each pitcher throws one inning of work. Today I was scheduled to be the starting pitcher and couldn’t wait to get out to the field and get ready to go. I arrived at the lovely Bob Barnes Field at 2:40pm. After getting my cleats on and collecting my thoughts for a few minutes I went out to go through my pregame routine. With me I took my glove, a ball to warm up with, and my towel for drills (a towel with a golf ball taped into it). I ran to centerfield and back, and then went through my dynamic stretching. Then I went through all my static stretching until I felt that all my muscles were properly warmed up and ready to go. If one little thing doesn’t feel right, you might not get the results you want, so it is so important for pitchers to thoroughly and properly warm up before taking the mound.
After stretching it is time to play catch, but before I play catch I like to go through 10 or 15 repetitions of my pitching mechanics with the towel rather than the ball. Going through your mechanics with a towel is a great tool for pitchers because it has limited stress on your arm when you throw with the towel rather than a ball. After that its time to throw. The starting pitcher always plays catch with the starting catcher, and today was no exception. When I warm up I go through a process called walking your arm out. I make 10 throws in three different drills, one at 30 feet, one at 45 feet, and one at 60 feet. Then I lob catch the ball all the way back to around 150 feet. After I feel my shoulder is loosened up I start to work my way back in from 150 feet throwing the ball with more velocity and on a tighter flatter line rather than arching it. I worked my way all the way back in, and finally felt loose enough to head to the bullpen to finish the warm up process.
In the bullpen I throw five light fastballs to my glove side to make sure my mechanics are sound and my arm is loose. Then I start to work at game speed. Two fastballs outside to a right-handed hitter and two change-ups outside to a right-handed hitter. Then two fastballs inside to a right-handed hitter and two change-ups inside to a right-handed hitter. After I feel I have command of the plate I start alternating fastball, change-up, fastball, change-up every pitch getting the feel for them. Then I go to the stretch and repeat the same routine, except I throw my breaking ball instead of my change up. Finally I like to finish my bullpen with going through each of my four pitches from the wind-up and then the stretch throwing them at game-speed with a purpose and a location in mind.
I was loose, I was ready, I was focused. I took the mound for the scrimmage. I had been at the ball park getting ready for over an hour, it was time to go get my real work in. I threw my eight warm-up pitches with conviction and purpose. Finally the first hitter stepped in. First pitch fastball, ball one. Dang, I hate when I don’t throw that first one in there. Second pitch fastball, strike one. Alright we are back, don’t mess around and pound the zone.After a couple of foul balls and a ball, the hitter fisted a 2-2 fastball to the shortstop and became out number one. The next hitter was jammed and popped a soft fly ball into the waiting glove of our right fielder. The third hitter worked the count well. He took a check swing at a 2-2 slider and was deemed to have held back. He watched as a 3-2 fastball flew over the plate, but it was too low, and he reached on a two-out walk. You can’t be walking people, don’t let this one hurt you. With that, the next hitter popped a routine fly ball to center field and ended my inning.
I was happy with the outing, but not happy with the walk. I felt I executed my pitches when I needed to, but would have liked to have that 3-2 pitch back that walked the hitter. I got a little too out front with the ball, and the fastball at the shins was not the right pitch in that situation. Nonetheless I did my job and got the boys off the field and up to bat with a zero on the scoreboard. As always I went to check my strike percentage, that ultimate teller of success. After much debate on who had the correct percentage it was finally recorded that I threw 17 pitches, 10 strikes, 7 balls, for a final strike percentage of 59%. Not stats that jump off the page, but I threw the ball well and continued to collect the outs I needed. After the high-fives and “good inning” from my teammates, I consulted my pitching coach for feedback. He responded with a simple, “I’m not going to fix what’s not broken.” I’ll take that as I am throwing the ball well and getting the job done. As long as I am getting outs and putting up good strike percentages, I’ll take the lack of feedback as a good thing.
I ran 10 poles in the outfield with a fellow pitcher during of the scrimmage for conditioning and to flush the lactic acid build-up out of my arm before leaving at 5:30 to head to night class. It was another successful day, and I feel like I am really building towards my goal of being a weekend rotation guy. I have no control over what will happen and who pitches on the weekend, but if I keep throwing good strikes and getting guys out, I can make it pretty tough for the coaches to keep me off the mound.
As always, never stopping working towards my goal.