Are your pre-season bullpens really getting you game-ready?
The challenge of the pre-season is that in your bullpens you have to now be thinking “pitching” while at the same time continuing to work technically on your “pitching motion”. “Pitching” is a combination of the pitching motion, a variety of effective pitches, and pitch/game-strategy. It’s easy to get caught-up in working technically on your motion and forget to get back to the art of pitching.
It is important that every athlete learn how to think technically, let the thinking go, and perform. It is also important that he learn how to self-correct during a performance and get back again to “pitching”. At this stage of your bullpen calendar, your pitch counts should be high enough to where you can practice this type of multi-tasking and keep your progress moving forward as you approach your season.
Construct some of your bullpens like this: take a break after you have thrown what represents your game warm-up pen pitch count and then return to the mound and complete your pitch count for the day in sets of 12 to 15 (taking a break after each set). This prepares you numerically and physically for the timing of a game.
In the above scenario, during the pitches that are thrown in your simulated warm-up pen before your sets, practice thinking technically about some of the adjustments you have been working on and then not thinking technically. Once you get used to thinking and not-thinking, it will become easier to remain present with yourself as well as the task at hand. I watch my highly skilled pitchers practice this way and it is truly a sight to behold.
Another plan is to proceed as above with your warm-up pen number, take a break, and then have your catcher call balls and strikes and take a break after the three outs. Simulating an innings format helps to start to build your confidence and again provides you with the learning environment where you can develop the skill of thinking, self-correcting, letting all that go…and just pitching. When possible, have a hitter stand in. This format gives you great feedback about the effectiveness of each of your pitches.
Embrace this time of the year. Learn to trust the work you have done and put it to the test. Never be afraid to self-evaluate and correct. When the season starts, be ready to trust yourself and your pitching — which is the number-one prerequisite for a solid pitching performance.