What to do when a pitcher has good control in practice, but not in games?
A common problem with a lot of young pitchers (especially first- and second-year pitchers) is that they look great in the bullpen, but they just can't get the ball over the plate for a strike in games. Perhaps the most common reason is that the pitcher is afraid to hit the batter (which is ironic – most batters are even more afraid of being hit).
A great pitching drill to help pitchers overcome the fear of hitting batters in game situations is to mimic the game in bullpen practice sessions. To do this, have an adult stand in BOTH batter's boxes during practice while the pitcher throws his practice pitches.
Here's a closer look at how this pitching drill works:
1. You'll need two adults/assistant coaches/parents for this drill. Have each one stand in a batter's box.
2. Get your pitcher on the mound and have him pitch.
3. At first, have him lob the ball over the plate to make sure he doesn't hit the two adults in the batter's boxes. It's important to start slowly.
4. Then, when some amount of confidence is gained, have the pitcher add velocity. Soon, he'll be firing them in there and will have confidence in his ability to throw strikes without plunking anyone.
As the pitcher's confidence grows, have the adult in the RHH batter's box crowd the plate a bit. Then move in from the LHH batter's box.
This will definitely shake the pitcher up the first time you do it, but the results are well worth the effort (and an occasional bruise). But it'll get your young pitchers "locked in" on the target and confident that they can throw strikes in games. That's because it's an awful lot easier to throw to just one batter in the batter's box in games than it is to throw to two adults in both batter's boxes in practices.
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