Preparation is the key to success for a starting pitcher. A starting pitcher usually knows in advance when he is expected to pitch, and what he does in the days and hours before that start can dictate what happens in that start. More time is spent preparing for a start than performing.
Preparing mentally and physically are equally important the days before and of a start. I will address the physical preparation today and talk about the mental preparation the next time.
Running, weightlifting (for older players), throwing, and drills should all be part of how a starting pitcher prepares the days between starts. The intensity of the work should be the heaviest the day after a start and the lightest the day before a start. As far as weightlifting, it should be done the first few days after a start and not the last few days before a start because it is important to allow the body time to recover from lifting before a start. I threw one bullpen in between starts to work on mechanics and pitches, and I usually long tossed once or twice in between on a five-day rotation. A similar routine would be good for a young starter that throws once a week. Throwing a second bullpen could help some pitchers but is not a necessity. The day before a start should be the lightest day in between starts. It is a balance between resting for the start and staying loose. Playing catch and running some sprints are good ways to keep the arm and body loose and ready for the start the next day.
Physically preparing the day of is pretty simple…..take it easy. This includes a good night’s rest, eating well, and drinking plenty of fluids. The last thing a pitcher wants is to be tired the day of a start. It is not until the final few hours before a game that a pitcher physically gets ready and warms up. Every pitcher should develop a routine before he pitches. This will help him relax and stay focused on the game. The routine should consist of anything that physically gets him ready. Every pitcher I played with had a routine they followed before each start. I had a routine that was to the minute. Here is the routine I used to get myself physically ready to start a 7:05 pm home game.
5:45 Stretch out arm
6:00 Get uniform on
6:15 Stretch legs and rest of body
6:30 Go out to the field and do some light running and agilities
6:40 Start to throw and long toss
6:48 Warm up on the mound
7:00 Head to dugout
This is what worked for me. When the game started, I was ready to perform. Each pitcher’s routine will vary, but they should have one thing in common…. prepare a pitcher to perform at his highest level and to have the ability to walk off the mound after knowing that everything was done to maximize performance that start.