By Dan Gazaway
Bullpens give you a chance to regroup as a pitcher and allow you to throw with a purpose. Avoid the “throwing just to throw” mentality; even if you are just playing catch with your friends. Every time you pick up the ball you need to work on something like hitting your spots, off-speed pitches, pitching mechanics and so on.
What do you work on when you throw a bullpen?
There are a variety of things you can do to spice up your bullpen sessions. Perhaps the first and most obvious one is spot work. This means you pick your five target areas (inside high and low, outside high and low and low middle) and keep track of how often you are hitting the zone.
I number the targets one-five like this:
1 – Inside Low
2 – Inside High
3 – Outside High
4 – Outside Low
5 – Middle Low
You can number them however you want, but the most important thing to do in bullpens is keep track of your progress. Start off throwing about 20 fastballs in whatever order you like. I like to throw 4 fastballs to each location. Then throw curveballs, changeups and whatever other pitches you like, working on spot work. Don’t throw more than 50 pitches at each bullpen session. Especially if you are on a 5 day pitching rotation. Two bullpens a week is sufficient for most pitchers.
To make bullpens more exciting make a game out of it. Every time you hit your target add a point; when you miss your target take a point away. When you throw right down the heart of the plate take away two points. Games like this keep pitching exciting and it allows you to actually compete against yourself and see your progress each bullpen session. Most importantly, it helps you hit your spots.
Bullpens are also a great time to work on off-speed pitches allowing you to get a “feel” for each pitch. It’s important to know what it feels like to throw your best curveball and become more consistent with it. I know no better way to learn this process than utilizing your bullpen time for this. With that being said, most of your bullpens you are not going to be throwing 100% velocity. When you are practicing your other pitches, to get that feel, it is best to slow it down to 70-80% of max velocity.