A pitcher's fielding ability can greatly affect your team's overall defense. Here are some guidelines you can use to show young hurlers how to be an asset when the ball is put in play.
Importance of a Quality Fielding Pitcher
Pitchers actually work two shifts. Their first shift is throwing strikes. Their second shift begins with the releases of the ball. They then become a fifth infielder.
Their ability to moonlight as an infielder can impact the game as much as anything they do from on the mound. Their fielding duties will vary with the situation and will be guided by the following principles:
- Know what to do before the ball isin play
- End in a good fielding position
The pitcher's momentum should bring him directly toward the plate and into his squared-away follow-through position: feet parallel, knees bent, weight evenly distributed over the balls of the feet, head up, eyes on the ball, and hands out in front.
From this position, the pitcher can move quickly toward the ball, prevent come-back smashes from hitting him in the chest or knees, and catch balls which would otherwise sneak through for singles.
Hustle Off The Mound
The faster the pitcher gets to the ball, the more time he'll have to set their body for a good throw. Quick feet can mean the difference between inning-ending double-plays and higher ERA's.
You don't want him to shuffle around the mound, passively watching the play unfold. His first few steps must be swift and decisive.
Turn Toward The Glove Side
If the pitcher has to come in to field the ball, as on a bunt or a swinging roller, he should come over the ball, field it with both hands, pivot toward his glove side, and stride directly to his target for the throw.
If he receives the ball from another fielder, say when covering first or backing up third, he should also spin toward his glove side to ensure a strong, accurate throw.
Throw To The Letters
The pitcher should deliver the ball about chest high to give the receiver a clear view of the ball and enable him to get off a quick throw or make a tag. We encourage pitchers to use sound throwing mechanics off the mound as well as on it.
This involves using a crow hop to achieve body balance and keeping their fingers on top of the ball to apply backspin and to throw straight. Unless impossible, he should always take a step on his throw.
Throwing without a step can put extra pressure on the arm--a potential source of injury. The pitcher's throwing skills can be developed through "focused throwing" at the beginning of every practice.
Instead of merely playing catch to loosen up, pitchers can throw at specified targets. The drill can be made both instructive and competitive by making a game of it--awarding one point for hitting the chest and three points for hitting the head, with a reward going to the winner.
Beyond these fundamentals, the pitchers have specific fielding duties that will vary according to the number of runners on base, which bases they are on, the number of outs, and where and how hard the batter hits the ball.
Backing Up Bases
This usually means standing in foul territory at least 40 feet behind a base (usually third or home) and in line with the throw. If the fence is closer, the pitcher can stand with his backside brushing it.
Most hits to the outfield will trigger the need for back up. The pitcher's immediate response should be to sprint half way between third and home, turn around, and quickly assess where the throw will go. Maybe the most important point to emphasize is to expect every throw to get by the base and roll to the fence.