In addition to preparing their pitchers for Opening Day, one of the biggest challenges that coaches face has gone largely unnoticed: establishing a way for relief pitchers to stay loose during a game so that they optimize their in-game performance. Without addressing this issue, relievers would often go 4+ hours between throws on a regular basis. Bridging these long gaps of inactivity between pregame and in-game action is key for pitchers to be able to enter a game thoroughly warm, stretched out and loose.
Alan Jaeger, who has worked with more than 200 professional players over the past 25+ years, is here to help. Jaeger’s Year Round Throwing Manual was released a couple of years ago and addressed this issue head-on. Inside Pitch caught up with the founder of Jaeger Sports to dig deeper into ways to keep relief pitchers as fresh as possible throughout the season.
Inside Pitch: When did you notice the lack of activity both before and during the game that occurs amongst relief pitchers in baseball?
Over many years of watching pitchers get loose before competition, it seems like it's commonplace for them to stay within 90-120 feet, as if they are "saving their arm" for the game. But if the arm is used to stretch out (250-300 feet) prior to aggressive throwing on a typical long toss day, why wouldn't you at least completely stretch your arm out (without pulling down) to its acclimated distance on a game day? We call this “opening the door,” which not only sets the tone for opening up the arm, but positions the arm to stay incubated throughout the game.
IP: What do you mean by ‘incubation period’?
Once the arm has been opened up to its typical long toss distance before a game, the idea is to keep it warm, or incubated, throughout the game through periodic activity, such as stretching, arm circles, band work, etc. Keeping the arm warm can provide a smoother and safer transition to the initial throws prior to getting on the mound, without shocking it after four hours of little or no activity.
IP: How does a routine like this positively impact the arm?
Arm health will be helped because the arm is not ‘shocked’ into action after little/no activity from pregame throwing to in-game performance. The arm can be optimally stretched out, and kept stretched out for hours. With a routine like this, the arm can also enter into aggressive throwing from an optimal place regarding flexibility/stretching, heat and range of motion. The freedom/ looseness of the arm lends to a more effortless delivery, greater velocity and better life on the ball. And because the arm has been kept so warm and the athlete didn't feel a need to get to max effort in a hurry, the arm will be in a much better position to recover faster.
IP: What exactly would this routine look like?
It could be as simple as two minutes of light stretching (including the body) and band work every 30 minutes, starting from the last throw made during pre-game to the ramp up period prior to getting up in the pen:
- 30 Seconds of Arm Circles (forward and backward)
3-5 reps of Internal Rotation (hip height)
3-5 reps of External Rotation (hip height)
3-5 reps of Internal Rotation (shoulder height)
3-5 reps of External Rotation (shoulder height)
3-5 reps of Reverse Throws
3-5 reps of Forward Throws
... and for the "ramp up" period, just repeat above but increase Forward Throws from 5 to 20 reps.
For more information, visit jaegersports.com
or check out Jaeger’s Year Round Throwing Manual