Speed and accuracy versus breaking balls

If my son is showing good velocity with decent accuracy (58% strikes), how long should he wait to start throwing breaking balls? What is the safest way to start teaching breaking balls?

Kids shouldn’t start throwing breaking balls until they hit puberty. All they need at a young age is to be able to locate the fastball and changeup. A good example is Nolan Ryan. He didn’t learn a curveball until after he was drafted by the Mets. That’s another reason I think that kids these days aren’t throwing as hard as the are capable of. They are relying too much on the curveball. I have seen so many kids get hurt or have to have surgery at age 10 or 11 from throwing curveballs!!! That is abuse!

It’s been my experience that it’s really different or every kid: some kids are ready at 14-15. For others, like me, its later. One excellent training tool I’ve used throughout my career is an empty tennis ball can.

Grip it at the base with your preferred curveball grip and spin it end-over-end. Look to get tight 12-6 (think hours on a clock, here) end-over-end rotation. Good curveballs are in and out of the strike zone quickly and 12-6 movement is optimal, so when spinning the can, try to mimic that spin. Also look to release the can out in front of the head so that that can’s first movement is down, not humping up.

Again, its been my experience that pitchers who can master spinning the can end-over-end, which is completely safe and lightweight, are ready to progress to spinning breaking balls.

Most kids shouldn’t start throwing any curve balls until 14-15 to be safe 16, it does a lot of damage to your arm if its not fully grown and developed, so many kids have surgery because of this, as for the slider (another breaking ball) that should not be thrown until low 20’s or around 19, the way you grip and throw this ball it does a lot of damage to your arm and many times hurts to throw it.

I read about your training device for teaching curves…ingenious!! I have a question that shows my ingnorance, but- when you grip the bottom of the tennis can, the top is facing inward…correct? Don’t you sell a device designed for this purpose? Thanks and thanks for this forum!!

Here are some pictures of the the empty tennis can training device for the development of a curveball. I call it a curveCAN, but it’s just an empty tennis can, which can be purchased at Wal-mart for $1.79. (Just take the three tennis balls out of the can, of course.)

These first two pictures show how the can rotates up-and-over, end-over-end. Look closely and you’ll see me pointing with my index finger. I often like to think about “shooting the target.” In other words, that index finger, for training purposes, points directly where you’re going to throw the curveCAN.

In the next two pictures, you can progress into throwing with your normal breaking ball arm path. Again, the curveCAN is gripped at the base with your preferred curveball grip, and the can is spun end-over-end with 12-6 rotation. Release the curveCAN, just like the pitch itself, out in front so the first rotation is downward, not humping upward.

A pitcher can work on this during the off-season three to four times a week at 25-30 spins a day without any added stresses on the throwing arm, which is why I like the curveCAN so much. Granted, it’s basic, but for learning the pitch, it was highly effective in my development.


I’ve seen hockey pucks used for the same purpose. You can grip it on edge with your CB grip and try and keep it from wobbling as it spins toward a target. It also can be used for FB and CU grips. Have you ever used pucks like this? What do :shock: you think about the usefulness for teaching young pitchers proper rotation?

I’m 15 and I’ve done the tennis ball can drill and it has worked for me. My curveball is just nasty, it has a nice sharp break to it.

Thank you very much, Steve. And thanks to the others. This is such a great forum!!

I started throwing a curveball when I was 16 (My sophomore year) my dad always stressed to me the fastball/changeup combination and everytime I wanted to throw a curve he would go and work with me on my change.

To this day I believe it is why I have such good control over it. I pitch for Indiana State University and I have found that even good/great college hitters have a very very very hard time making solid contact with a good change that comes out of your hand like a fastball. Every once in awhile they do get a good piece of it though :roll:

I would advise anyone out there to wait until you hit puberty to start, and the tennis ball can/hockey puck drill is excellent

Just this past weekend my 10 yr old son pitched in an AAU game. He didn’t have his good fastball ( he was very tired because he had just finished playing both ways in a Pop Warner football game), but he started throwing the best change up I’ve ever seen for a 10 yr old! During his wind up and delivery, even I couldn’t tell what was coming. He started the ball belt high and it literally “fell off the table”. I don’t know if he just got lucky or he finally understands how to throw it, but it was a thing of beauty.

The moral of the story, I am convinced now more than ever that a good change up (along with accuracy, of course) is all you need at this age.

Jon (10 yr old) also started his Fall Ball games today. His change up is a good palm ball that drops in about 3 feet in front of the plate. It helped him finish off a three K, 11 pitch inning!

I’ve mentioned it in another area of this forum, but my son Daniel also throws a palm ball because he says his fingers are too small for a circle change or any other change grips. Everything about the delivery is the same including nearly the same arm speed as his fast ball. He lets the grip do the work. At least for him, the way he grips it requires him to throw it hard just to get it to the plate.

I’ve never been able to throw a good curve. Of course, this led me to develop a strong CU and slider, and when I need something like a curve I just push the ball a little tighter into my grip, closer to the palm, and use the same arm action as I do for my slider. I never had any issues with elbow or shoulder injury, I believe because I don’t twist my arm or turn my wrist; basically, I guess I manage to do it all with a straight-on arm action.
Maybe the only pitch I throw that puts any appreciable pressure on my elbow is my forkball, which could be because my fingers aren’t terribly long so the pitch sits fairly deeper than some who throw it. Sometimes I will throw my CU (usually a 3-finger type) by squeezing the ball a bit more between my index and ring fingers and I get a fair bit more drop that way, as it seems to cut down on spin/rotation.
I’m a true sidearmer/submariner, and I doubt I could throw harder than low 80’s if my life depended on it, so I use what I got. :smiley:
Anyway, does anyone here have any advice on how to throw a better sinker? I have trouble with mine, mainly overthrowing I think. I could use some pointers on how to hold it, release, etc.

i started throwing my curve when i was 14. my has never hurt from it and ive never thrown it more than 20 times a game. i use my changeup and fastball a lot. my old baseball coach played on a lot of semi pro teams so he got me goin on the fastball cahngeup. i pitch in highschool and i have noticed kids are so worried about a curveball while batting that thats all they look for so just blow it by them. most of the time u dont even need to throw the curve over the plate. i use a lot of the same things on the mound. ill look at the batter and throw a heater. if he doesnt swing ill throw a curve for an intentinal ball. now that i have him looking ill come back with a changeup so he looks for that curve and there is no break this time so hes fooled. 2 strikes down and 1 ball hes lookin curve. not bring the high heat he’ll swing most of the time.thats all you need to do in highschool is come with the heat and changeups. use the curve but not as a 1st or second pitch.

i didnt throw a curve till i was 13 when i worked on it a little and really 14 before i really threw it alot and it was the worst curveball ever probably it was just slow and any drop to it was either luck or attributed to the ball dieing before it got to the plate. all these other kids had sick curveballs for 14 year olds and said see gary thats what happens when your dad doesnt let you learn a pitch till your 14 they thought i was to old to learn it and all that they were so great while i was pitching better then most of them really with just a fastball and sometimes a change. but i was still obviosly angry i figured i would never learn how to throw it it was an impossible pitch or somethning it never did anything and all these kids had one and i would be left behind, but with hard work on it and proper mechanics i had a better curve then all of them by the middle of my freshman year, and now most there curves are just average if not below average for highschool kids, and now they have no fastball because they never worked on it while my curve is in my opinion and most of the kids at my school the best of anybodys at a stacked highschool that was ranked nationally and everyone of our pitchers would be aces at most other highschools. im not even an old adult telling you this or something preaching im 16 and i am very glad my dad made me wait… as mas as i was when i was 13 and when i was ready to just give up on my curve i am grateful he did make me wait

Most everyone realizes that kids arms are vulnerable to damage from throwing curves when they are young. Not everyone realizes that they are especially vulnerable during their growth spurt, typically around 13 or 14 years of age although it can be earlier or later. During the growth spurt muscle growth can’t keep up with bone growth and kids lose flexibility putting more stress on their tendons. Curves put more stress on the medial epycondial and can result in pitcher’s elbow. Pitcher’s elbow isn’t necessarily “career” threatening but it can hamper performance and it takes a very long time to heal, often requiring many weeks without any throwing and a very gradual return to throwing.

if thrown correctly - letting the grip do the work - no twisting, etc. the curve will not hurt your arm anymore than any other pitch. its fastball arm action just throwing a different part of the ball. if you snap it, etc. yeah it will do damage - at any age. BUT in order to learn to pitch i think younger kids need to stick to fastball/change combos. learn to pitch instead of getting people out with stuff thats unhittable for most younger kids.

Hi, i am 17 years old, and i am from Brazil.

I started playing baseball early this year.
This week i asked my coach how to throw a curveball and he kinda teach me how to do it. The first curveball i tried to pitch had a good downward movement.

I tried to throw a lot of curveballs and I could put some good ones for strike but now my arm is hurt :roll:

I read the coach Ellis’ advice and i loved that curveCAN thing. Now even with the arm not 100% yet i can throw it.

So i have one question. I really wanna have a good curveball. Just like Ellis said, you will end up falling in love with it hehe

Should I keep trying to learn it? Like i said, I am 17, and i have some strength in my right arm, but i started playing baseball this year, and never played baseball before.

And if yes, i train on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Should I throw how many curveballs per week or per day? Anyone have an idea?

Thanks guys.