Baseball pitchers of all ages must become proficient at fielding their position. Pitcher's fielding practice (PFP) is a very important part of pre-season practice. These are easy, routine plays but it is vital that the pitchers get to the point where it is second nature to them and they make no mistakes.
Covering first base on all ground balls hit to the right side of the infield. Don’t forget it is the catcher’s responsibility to call out loud and clear, “Get over there!”
Comebackers with no one on base. He must field the ball, get a four-seam grip, set his feet and throw a strike to the first baseman.
Mistakes here are made because the pitcher throws flatfooted or rushes the throw. As Roy Campanella once said, “You know your can’t outrun that ball.” Take your time.
Comebackers with a runner on first base or first and second. This is an easy 1-6-3 double play and it should be made every time. Coaches should demand perfection on this play in practice.
Mistakes to look for are not closing off the glove-side shoulder to second base, not moving the feet or hurrying the throw (usually resulting in throwing from a low arm slot and the ball sails). Also the pitcher must have in his mind where he will throw the ball with runners on first and second. He should not try for the lead runner here. He should throw to the SS to begin the double play. Do not even practice throwing to third. Even if you are successful you probably won’t be able to get the DP.
Bases-loaded comebackers. The ball should immediately be thrown, chest high over the plate to the catcher to start the double play.
Mistakes here are usually mental. The pitcher didn’t run the scenario in his mind before the pitch.
Bunted balls. These are usually routine and are dependent on the pitcher’s athleticism, technique and mechanics. (Does he have solid mechanics in that he is facing the catcher after ball release? If he falls off one side of the mound or the other he will not be able to field all bunted balls. The opposing team will easily recognize that and you can be assured they will bunt on your pitcher.) After a pitch to the catcher the coach, in the batter's box may underhand a ball on the infield for the pitcher to field. Tossing balls for bunts is more accurate than hitting fungos
Line your pitchers behind the mound and have them take multiple turns for each play. They may simulate a pitch to the catcher if it is a rest day or they may throw fastballs to the catcher, working on accuracy.
PFP should be a high-speed, intense drill with coaches teaching and correcting at every turn. Successful PFP will pay many dividends during the season.
Bob Byrd is the owner of Baseball-Excellence.com.
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