Teaching Young Pitchers breaking pitchs

The general advice for teaching a young pitcher to throw a curve ball is to hold off until the age of 14. And I concur with this theory. Naturally strength and maturity of body must be taken into consideration, as well as pitching mechanics. Still 14 seems reasonable.

The question then is other than teaching a young pitcher to throw a 2 or 4 seam fastball, and a change up; is there any other breaking pitch that a pitcher younger than 14 could be taught without compromising his arm?

No, and generally it’s best to wait until 16 (not 14) or so for curveballs and sliders.

Until then, it’s best to stick to 4-seams, 2-seams, Change-Ups, and Knuckleballs.

i was a late bloomer I was 16 almost 17 before I threw my first curve…

A small detail, but remembering that this young pitcher is learning how to grip and throw a 2-seam “balanced” fastball; a 2-seam “unbalanced” fastball; a 4-seam “balanced” fastball; a 4 seam “unbalanced” fastball (“balanced/unbalanced” referring to thumb location on the ball); how to use finger pressure to change the movement of the fastball plus how to grip and throw a good change-up (which many pitchers still DON’T have), that’s enough of an a “assortment” to work on. Learning to do something well often takes time.

By the time a developing pitcher is ready age-wise/body-wise to learn how to throw the curve properly, he will have/should have learned how to use his fastball effectively by changing speeds and location and how to mix in the change-up appropriately. That should make concentrating on the grip, arm slot, and delivery of ONE of the following - curveball/slider/screwball - an easier task.

The problem is getting a young pitcher to wait on throwing the breaking ball, particularly when he often sees others his age using it already. What he may not be taught by his pitching coach may be “taught” by his friends…and that’s where the real trouble/danger can begin.

Parents need to take control…I guarantee you, no coach will allow my son to throw a specific pitch OR number of pitches that I don’t agree to.

terp - good luck finding a high school, college or pro club for your son. dont know of any that will agree to those terms.
dont know of many quality youth league coaches that would. note i said quality - there are some clueless youth coaches - that will abuse kids arms and dont have a clue about proper mechanics, grips, etc - usually parents - but there are many very good ones - usually parents.
youth pitchers should focus on learning to pitch by throwing fastballs/changeups. having said that - if taught the right way, with proper instruction and supervision breaking pitches will not hurt a kids arm. its the grip. nothing else.

With all due respect, we will agree to disagree here…and that’s ok, the point of a forum is to communicate different viewpoints. And just to be clear, my comments were intended for pitchers 15U … my son is 13 now, and depending on how he matures physically, we MAY begin introducing the curve ball next Spring but not before. As you have said many times, and I agree, these kids need to focus on developing the FB and SC … there is no reason ( unless you count getting outs a reason, and I dont ) for a young pitcher to feel they need to be throwing curveballs. And regarding pitchcount…I encourage every parent to count pitches even thru high school, and discuss any concerns with the head coach … any GOOD coach will be happy to have that discussion.

My first curveball came this year, and I’m 17 year old.

But I started playing baseball when I was 16 years old. Before that I’ve never thrown a baseball.

I don’t know if it’s already to soon for me to start throwing curveballs. I can get good movement out of it, but I have poor control. My fastball can top 75mph or so and I don’t have the greatest control of the fastball.

Should I keep on throwing curves? Or should I just work on fastball and then a change-up (I throw a straight changeup, but again, not that much of control).


If you can’t control your fastball, then your curveball doesn’t matter.

Focus on your fastball and change-up.

i agree there is no need to introduce the curve at young ages - i always say that. throw your fastball - change - learn how to pitch.
if a kid doesnt learn how to throw a curve correctly age doesnt matter. hes going to hurt his arm at 17 as easy as hes going to hurt it at 9. if thrown correctly its not going to hurt it either age. thats all im saying - we are not disagreeing as much as you think.
i dont know about your area but the majority of high school coaches here are all experienced, knowledgeable baseball people. not people forced into a job or doing it to get a supplement. pitchers arms are well taken care. i know we monitor pitch counts closely, have specific between appearances routines our guys follow, do arm care excercises before and after each time our pitchers throw, etc. etc. we have a 12 week throwing program our guys follow before the first day of practice.

We will never agree that a 17 year old can hurt him arm just as easily as a 9 year old. I’m ok if you believe that, but parents of young pitchers need to know that your opinion is just that, and should not be accepted as anything other. Regarding coaches, I can tell you are a good one … but not all kids are fortuate to play for someone of your expertise, and it’s in those situations that parents need to educate themselves , get involved and understand what is being taught and why…

The research says otherwise.

For one thing, the nature of the injuries a person will experience will change depending on whether they are 17 or 9. This is because at age 17 their growth plates have closed.

A 9 year-old is less likely to experience and injury because, while they have the bones of a child, they also have the muscles of a child. They simply aren’t strong enough to do too much damage (but can hurt themselves if they throw for too much of the year).

The peak for youth-type risks is probably around the age of 13 when puberty is just starting to hit. This is because kids are starting to develop the muscles of an adult but still have the bones of a child.

Good points, unfortunately we continue to see Tommy John surgeries for 9-13 yr olds every year …

Hi, thought I’d write my idea on curve balls and young kids. I’ve heard many different views for and against kids throwing curve balls and all seem to have some merit. I visited the web site of Dr. Mike Marshall who gets into the biological age of kids and their bone growth, and he really knows what he’s talking about , not just about curve balls but kids pitching at young ages. Check his site out and download his free book, I did and its great. I’d never be able to get little league teams to go along with his pitching program though cause the innings and pitch counts per week would be too low. Anyway, the curve ball issue. Dr. Marshall would be definately against it and Steve Ellis too and these guys are the best in my opinion. But did you see the Little League World Series?? All the 13 yr & 12 yr old pitchers had some real nasty curve balls!! Possible the answer IS the biological age of a kid and no set rule for all kids. What do you think could biological age be the key??

The performance of the pitchers in the LLWS is completely irrelevant.

Just because a pitcher CAN throw a pitch doesn’t mean he SHOULD throw a pitch.

Be careful that changing the thumb position doesn’t lead to supination. That’s the one and only reason Tom House says the splitter is hard on the arm. But it seems to me that reasoning applies to any pitch.


I would keep the curve at 17 with some provisos.

Is your curve actually spinning right? Are you throwing it correctly? A good curve breaks more down than over unless you are throwing sidearm. Does it have a good change of speed?

I would keep working on your change-up. At 17, It is time to at least consider the slider. Its easy to learn and hard on the arm. Also when its thrown right, its hard to hit. You’re at the place where you have to compete for mound time, and maybe for scholarships. I am a big believer in the 4 pitch pitcher, Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Change if you are a starter.


I like the advice of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Kremchek…if the boy is not ready to shave, he’s not ready to throw a curve.

Go with the drivers license rule

If you throw a curve the traditional way before you are 14 & 1/2 you risk tendonitis in the elbow tendons according to Dr. Joe Thomas an excellent Orthopeadic Surgeon in Cincinnati. It has to do with the heel of your hand leading as you accerlate through your motion and snap your wirst. It is even worse with sliders. Chris O’ knows all the corect medical terms I am sure.

I am a huge fan of the breaking ball. The curve and the slider were resposibile for a lot of my pitching success in baseball. This being said, I can not watch the Little World Series where I see kids throwing hook after hook at ages & 11-12. For the love of Christ, they are not little adults! I almost get ill watching it; this not the way pitching is supposed to be. I leave the room.

The first book I ever read on pitching gives excellent advice, If you want you own best pitch develope your fastball for : Location , Movement, & Velocity. Me being a breakingball guy, I still threw more fastballs than all the other pitches combined. Look at Bronson Arroyo who throws 3 or 4 different breakingballs, still his fastball is his number one pitch.