Pitch count problems


#1

We are having a terrible time. My son (15 years old Freshman) had a slight tear in his UCL due to a football injury last september. He took 3 months off from throwing, went through a rigorous program of physical therapy and began throwing in Jan, slowing building strength and velocity with a professional pitching coach.
During his first outing in JV, he threw a complete game 95 pitches, which concerned us very much. I had him approach his coach to discuss the matter. Which he did. I also know the head coach personally, and had a brief conversation with him about the matter. He assured me that the JV coach should never pitch a freshman that many pitches that early in the season, and that they would be very careful with my son having just come back from injury. Well guess what Second start, complete game 92 pitches in 58 degree weather.
I am beside myself, concerned for my sons arm, What can I do? The coach seems way more interested in winning a meaningles JV game then the health of his players. He has also pitched other freshman deep into games, with counts in the 80"s so its not just my son. Any suggestion on how to address this would be great.


#2

What kind of winter did he have? How many pitches was he throwing in bullpens? What was the progression like over the past 12 weeks? Is he conditioned to throw 80-100 pitches?
Is he having any discomfort?

If he’s confident, recovered, put in the work, and feels healthy, I would not see an issue with him throwing 60-80 pitches this early in the season. Again, weather conditions, pitch counts per inning, and rest between innings would all impact that number.

If you have any concerns at all validated by an honest appraisal of the full scope of the situation, you should speak with the head coach and explain why you think his workload should be decreased. Listen to what the coach has to say. Ultimately, the decision is yours. If the coach isn’t going to respect your opinion then you can go to the A.D. to limit your son’s activities or take him off the team entirely if you aren’t being supported. My only word of caution is that you listen to what the coach has to say before making your decision. If you have known this person for a while, you probably have a good sense of his motivations. It’s your call.


#3

Coach Paul, Thank you for your insight. He had a good winter, working slowly, ending his preseason work with 45-50 pitch pens. Since HS season started, other pitchers on his team are only throwing 25 to 30 pitch pens, while he has been going 50. The pens are not regular by any means at all, He often will stay after practice or throw off our mound in the back yard, because he has not thrown a pen in practice for a week.

I did have a discussion with the JV coach, did my very very best, to aproach it as a concerned parent, not an angry parent. The coach said he thought about pulling him after he had a 7 pitch 5th inning and was at 70 pitches. But said he talked to my son, and he said he wanted to finish the game ( 6 innning JV game). I said that it was the coaches responsibility to watch out for the health of the pitcher and that the kid (athlete is always going to want to pitch if asked). He is a competitor. Is 5’10" and has a 84 mph fastball, he has all the confidence in the world. I asked for the coaches help in protecting him, but I am not confident at all that I got anywhere. I am about 2 seconds from pulling him from the team, but I soooooooo do not want to do that. In fact I just want to enjoy watching him play. BTW he also plays 3rd and played it the full game of game 1 of the double header ( he pitched the 2nd game)


#4

It sounds like he’s conditioned to pitch about 70-75 pitches in relative safety if he feels good. Based upon the irregular work and the light pitch totals in the bullpens, I would not be stretching him to 90 or 100. Again, the only data I have is what is provided by you.


#5

I add this. Last night at 5 innings he had 5 SO, 2 walks and 3 hits. The 5th inning was a 7 pitch inning and he was at 68 pitches. Great outing, but was sent back out, after the 1st batter I knew he was done, as he was missing high ( a sure sign of fatigue) But was left to walk 2 more, give up 3 hits and lose the game 5-4. With no one in the pen warming up. I think at this point your assessment of 70-75 was spot on. My concern is mostly for long term damage due to overuse to soon. Thank you for your insight.


#6

Pitchers should be pulled when they reach their pitch count limit or when they become fatigued - which ever comes first. The sports med folks are saying that pitching while fatigued is a big source of injury because mechanics and timing deteriorate. Signs of fatigue are unstable/inconsistent posture, shortened stride, slower tempo down the hill, soft glove, etc. Some of these result in elevated pitches or reduced velocity.

Your son is at the age where he needs to start taking ownership of his arm care. Of course, that means he needs to be able to tell the coach when he can’t go or when he’s done.


#7

*What can I do? We are having a terrible time. During his first outing in JV, he threw a complete game 95 pitches, which concerned us very much. … Well guess what Second start, complete game 92 pitches in 58 degree weather. …The coach seems way more interested in winning a meaningless JV game then the health of his players… I said that it was the coaches responsibility to watch out for the health of the pitcher and that the kid (athlete is always going to want to pitch if asked). … Great outing, but was sent back out, after the 1st batter I knew he was done, as he was missing high ( a sure sign of fatigue)

Seems like a slam dunk decision process to me mbenefiel.
if he were my son, he’d be doing something else. This system that your son is in, is influenced by other things on the apposing side of good sense and reasonable management. If it takes your son to under the knife to drive the point home to you, then so be it.

So, first I would suggest researching your insurance policy to see just how much that kind of operation is covered.
Second, I would approach your son - after his surgery, and try and convince him why you and his father let things go as far as they did.

The bottom line here is this, you’re expressing concerns after concerns - which is a good thing. You evidently know something is wrong and that’s to your credit. What detracts from your credit- is allowing your son to continue when you know better, but for some other reason(s), those reason(s) are holding you back from taking charge and showing your son, by example, how to take charge of his own well being.