There’s an old adage in pitching circles and it’s this: “Throw your first inning in the bullpen”.
In other words, everything else being equal – how you feel that day, your pre game plan for sleep, nourishment, etc, … go through your bullpen duty as deliberate a routine as you would do everything else. After your warm up and pre field conditioning, try this for your bullpen duty:
Start with your four seam grip and deliberately pick a spot on the player whose is catching for you, say his should on your throwing side.
Start by only tossing lightly … about twenty feet from one another and see just how accurate you are. And like JD stated above, don’t try and be surgical here. Place the ball reasonably in that area. remember, toss lightly – getting the feel for that day’s appearance. So don’t be afraid to exaggerate your arms and shoulder movement here.
Also, twist your trunk and deliberately lean your head into the toss.
---- Why go through this now? Your not only trying to focus yourself on delivering a light toss to a target, but your also telling yourself that your body is ready for the days work… no pain or major discomfort that will distract you. In addition, this is a good time to adjust your uniform to fit “free and easy” for you out there on the field.
After about thirty of so tosses, move back to about 40 feet and toss again, still exaggerating your body’s movement … but this time crank the tossing up to about 2/3rd game speed. Note how this has effected your accuracy, your feeling each toss, and your visual witness of what your trying to accomplish.. Stay with the four seam grip … don’t be tempted to get fancy at this point. 30 tosses like this should give you a pretty good indication of your ability to start true bullpen pitching.
Now step back to about 60 feet and get your mental focus in gear. Study… I mean really study the target on the player who’s catching your pitches now. Have this catcher stand up for the first ten or so pitches that you’re going to deliver at 2/3rd game speed… again targeting the same spot that you’ve been working with. Now at this point … your gong to want to go through your full delivery posture … striding with game quality form. After those 10 pitches, have the player catching you get down in the plate position and start working on your pitch inventory. Go through every pitch that you know works. Stay away from the work-in-progress pitches. As you progress, you take special note of your game quality pitch of the day. Is it your four seam, your two seam, your slider … what’s working really well? Why? Because that one pitch that seems to be THE ONE for that day is your foundation pitch that no only gives you the greatest sense of confidence … by it also is the pitch that you can deliver that will bring your other pitches back into line as the day (night) progresses.
So, there you go. Your first inning was in the bullpen… not live time. You’ve gotten the butterflies out, your settled down, your first batter is nothing more than an extension of what you’ve been doing all along. So your first pitch is a beauty!!!
Knock!... right over the left field wall… Wait a minute! What the heck just happened!!! You were all set!!!
The game’s like that son… no matter how well we prepare… there’s someone out there that’s just as good as us. So shake it off and try it again.
**************** Special Note on a Conditioning Pitch*************
There will always be that ONE PITCH that will set up your other pitches for a better performance then not. In other words,… say you deliver a fastball on the outside corner that is just not cutting it. It’s a struggle to say the least. BUT, it seems that every time you pitch your slider… you seem to have better performance with that outside corner. So, a smart guy would recognize this relationship and then say to himself.. “hey… this seems to work better if I do this… before I try and hit that corner that’s been killing me all day.” In fact, watch Beckett of the Red Sox…. and see if you can notice when the light bulb goes off over his head when this works for him. In fact, a lot of pro’s will look for that pitch relationship when it’s getting a little rough out there.