It’s time for baseball tips courtesy of Mike Coutts, the former University of Maine captain and assistant coach who owns and runs the Frozen Ropes Training Center in Portland. He also coached Deering High School of Portland to the state Class A title a year ago.
Today’s topic is pitching.
“A lot of people think throwing and pitching are two different things. That really isn’t the case. If you don’t learn how to throw, you aren’t going to be a good pitcher. The only difference is there is a leg kick when you pitch,” said Coutts.
The Glove. He said the use of the glove goes under the radar.
“The glove helps you keep your direction and balance,” said Coutts. “If you glove falls below your waist, your shoulders won’t be parallel. Your glove should always stay above your waist and should point in the direction of home plate. As you rotate through [on your delivery], you should pull your glove into your chest.
“You also want to get the ball out of your glove quickly. The ball should come out of the glove as the stride [front] foot and knee start toward home plate,” said Coutts.
If the pitcher waits too long, his stride foot will land early and his pitches will stay up.
Warmup drills. Coutts will have pitchers throw while on both knees, on one knee and with their feet wider apart than the shoulders. He will also have them throw from 100 feet while shuffling their feet to help stretch out their arms. They will also have 10 toes facing a partner and will rotate their upper body when they throw without using their feet.
The Fastball. There are two types of fastballs: the two-seamer and the four-seamer. The two-team fastball is thrown with the index and middle fingers on the seams, pointed in the same direction. This gives the fastball more movement. A righty’s two-seamer will run in on a righthanded hitter.
The four-seam fastball is thrown with your fingers across the seams. It doesn’t have as much movement.
“The big thing with the fastball, especially the four-seamer, is you have to make sure your thumb is under the ball for balance,” said Coutts. “It could be a little to the side on the two-seamer.”
The Curve. Coutts isn’t a big advocate of the curve because “you have to have flexible wrists to throw a good one.” He prefers the slider. The curve is thrown with the thumb and the middle finger by spinning the ball “and the big thing is when you’re ready to release it, the palm of your hand should be facing your ear. The index finger balances the ball.”
The Slider. The thumb and the middle finger should be on the seams and there are a lot of different ways to release it, he said. “They can make believe they are [gently] turning a door knob. Others will tell you to imagine slicing the ball in half.” The middle finger should be at 2:00 on the ball and the thumb should be at 8:00.
The changeup. There are several ways to throw it. The ring changeup has the pitcher gripping the ball with his thumb and index finger forming a circle on the side of the ball. You can also have the pitcher grip it hard with the middle three fingers or with all five fingers. The arm speed must be the same as a fastball.
Coutts is concerned young pitchers throw too many breaking balls.
It strains the arm “and the fastball loses its zip. Your arm gets stronger throwing fastballs.”
He said pitchers should strive to develop a repetitive delivery and a command of their pitches so they can