Baseball Pitching

Bullpen Sessions Foot on Rubber

One of the most common (yet missed) issues with pitchers is a drifting back heel on the rubber—or when the heel doesn’t stay flush against the rubber.

When the heel shifts or drags from the rubber, the pitcher’s alignment will be off and will lead to overcompensation during the delivery and a loss of control/velocity.

Coaches can work on this during bullpen sessions by slowing down the pitcher’s delivery, emphasizing that they have their back heel against the rubber.

When done correctly, the pitcher can drive (straight) toward the catcher—not flying open with the hips or upper body, or moving across the body because the heel alignment is off.

Bullpen Sessions The Leg Lift

The pitcher’s leg lift is a crucial part of the mechanics—for balance as well as rhythm and consistency/control.

High kick, medium kick: remember to have the pitcher develop a leg lick that is comfortable to them.

Directionally, there are two main types of leg kicks. The first is to bring the leg straight up—however, this way puts a lot of the weight on the pitcher’s back foot, outer heel. During the delivery, this type of leg kick will require a more significant push from the hind leg.

The second way is a simplified version—which works best for the 12-U hurlers: Bringing the front knee over the back leg during the kick. This move allows the pitcher to center the weight over the inner part of the back foot, which generates better direction and drive toward the plate.

Remember, coaches: it’s about developing consistency while using what works best for each unique pitcher.

Coaches Tip: 12-U Long Toss Program

Long tossing is a great tool to build arm strength, but coaches/parents—especially at the 12-U Level—need to make sure the pitcher is doing it correctly.

Find the proper distance: Keep an eye on the pitcher’s body, making sure they are not overexerting—things like flying open and straining their neck during the release or missing the target by a large margin.

Don’t fix too long with too short: On the reversal of too much distance, long tossing at too short of a range can cause an issue because the pitcher will tend to use only the arm.

Find a happy medium, where the pitcher is using their feet to build momentum, staying within their proper mechanics, and hitting the target—or at least keeping it within a reasonable area to the receiver.

Bullpen Sessions Pt. 1: Long Toss Program

Although the 13–15 age range is more physically mature than 12-U, the distance during long tossing still needs to be monitored—and limited, as needed.

Coaches, focus on the proper mechanics first and then let that determine the distance.

The head/neck is the first to go: During the throwing motion, if the head begins to tilt (neck strain), the distance is too far.

The player should be able to throw to their partner’s body within an arms’ width up, down, and side to side.

Remember: Do not sacrifice mechanics over distance—the distance comes with the strength of the player as they continue to mature.

Bullpen Sessions Pt. 2: Mound Work

13–15 age group should incorporate working on dry mechanics as the first part of their bullpen sessions.

The three checkpoints to focus on: load, separation, and plant.

Working on each checkpoint will help the pitcher develop feel during the deliver—muscle memory.

Coaches, make sure the focus is only on the checkpoints: no throwing.

Bullpen Sessions Pt. 3: Footwork (Back Heel on Rubber)

The physical maturation among the 13–15 age range is something coaches need to consider when working with this group of pitchers.

Sometimes the force generated during the leg lift will cause the back foot (on rubber) to move, forcing the heel off the rubber.

Stay under control: The back foot must stay up against rubber in order to maintain proper direction—while getting out in front—toward the plate.

Control the aggression: Coaches should focus on making sure the heel stays up against the rubber by working to eliminate an aggressive leg lift/back hip load.

Bullpen Sessions Part 4 Separation

Good separation is a critical element of the pitcher’s timing in the delivery.

Separation occurs when the hands—glove and throwing—separate after the leg lift.

Keep the weight back: To keep the separation centered, and the weight back, coaches should focus on having the pitcher break the hands over the hind leg.

Stop them after the leg left and before the drive to see if they are in the correct position.

Lead with the elbow, not the glove: Make sure the glove-side elbow leads toward the target after the separation. The location of the glove—down, parallel—is up to the pitcher’s “feel.”

Bullpen Sessions Part 5 The Landing

The pitcher’s landing is one of the most critical parts of the delivery.

A good landing can make up for inefficiencies in the early part of the delivery.

A common flaw during the landing is when the pitcher lands on their toe or heel.

Landing on toe causes the pitcher to get too out in front, which affects their control; landing on the heel will cause the pitcher to spin off of the pitch, which will also, affect the pitcher’s control along with velocity and movement.

The ideal landing is when the entire foot touches the ground at the same time: this helps create leverage in delivery.

Bullpen Sessions Part 6 Breakdown

Bullpens are a great way to help pitchers get ready for pitching in games, while also developing their mechanics.

Coaches can use this time to assess what needs to be worked on during the ‘pen.

Keep it flowing: A player’s throwing delivery during warm-up should mimic their pitching delivery during a game.

Go slowly: Work on one or two things at a time during bullpens.

There are many common mechanical issues for the 12-U pitcher, but here are two to keep an eye on:

Problem 1: Head sways during the windup.

Fix: Using a physical cue, the coach should place their hand—just slightly—on top of the pitcher’s head. This will keep them centered.

Problem 2: Pause at the top of the leg lift.

Fix: The coach should place their hand toward the back leg, so they get used to a good rotation with their core during the leg lift, which will gather momentum to drive forward.

No robots: Remember, the pitchers should have natural rhythm and timing with their arm and body during the delivery.