I arrived at Bright house Field on January 27th at 830am. When I arrived, there were 10-15 players at the complex already working out. The players ranged from the 32 year old, best pitcher in baseball, Roy Hallady, to the 19 year old, highly touted pitching prospect, Jarred Cosart. Mike Zagurski and Scott Mathieson were also there getting in shape to try and make the big league club.
Before I get into my personal workout program and goals for this period of the off season, I must first write a paragraph about Roy Halladay. This man is an absolute machine, plain and simple. He is the first person at the field and he works out from 7-11 every single day. When I say work out, I don’t mean do an upper body circuit, then talk to friends, then do some core and so on, I mean 4 straight hours of working out his body. The only time he takes a break is when he writes down the amount of reps he just completed.
Quick example of a Halladay day at the park… Shawn Fcasni, the strength and conditioning coach, put together a lower body workout called “an inning,” which is essentially 15 different lower body exercises designed to get every muscle group in the legs, as well as increase functional strength. After one “inning” your legs are on fire and the next day you are sore. There is also a core “inning,” which is the same principle, just core instead of legs. One day Roy did a lower body inning, then got on the treadmill for a 7 minute interval run, then did another lower body inning, then did another 7 minute treadmill run, then did another lower body inning, then another treadmill run, then a core inning, treadmill run, and finally another core inning. After he completed all of this, he jumped on the elliptical for 30 minutes, and then he began his throwing program. I guess there is a reason he is the best pitcher in baseball.
Back to catching up. My 2 main goals for the month of February were to get my arm to 90% strength, and to get my body in 100% game ready shape. In order to get my arm to that point, I thought I needed 8 bullpen sessions where I could long toss past 150 feet every day. My first bullpen was Tuesday February 2nd, 20 pitches, all fastballs. My arm felt incredibly strong; as I was throwing with about 50% effort and the ball was popping the glove.
(Quick aside… Rolando de Armas, aka Roly, caught 6 of my 8 pens. Roly is 58 years old and is still able to strap on the shin guards and catch bullpens. Not only did he catch my pen, but he caught most of the pitchers pens because he was one of two catchers. There were days when Roly had to catch at least 4 bullpens. I think it is safe to say, that he is one of only a handful of 58 year olds that can catch multiple pens for an entire month.)
My second pen was another 20 pitch pen, but I incorporated my change up. Once again my arm felt strong and I was hitting my spots with more consistency than my first pen. During this time I had been working on my cutter in flat ground sessions. It was all over the place, sometimes it would cut, sometimes it would stay straight, and sometimes it would go the other way. Before my third pen I planned to talk to Gorm, the pitching coordinator, about adding a cutter to my mix of pitches. I had a whole speech planned as to why I thought it was a good idea, but the conversation went like this…
Me- Hey Gorm, so I was thinking that instead of throwing my get me over slider I should…
Gorm- So you want to throw a cutter? I think it’s a good idea.
Gorm- You want it to be about 5 mph slower than your fastball and have a small cut at the end of the pitch?
Gorm- ok let’s see it.
So much for my long planned speech.
It’s really a great feeling when you and the pitching coordinator are on the same page. I hear horror stories with some of my friends in other organizations that think completely the opposite of their pitching coordinator, and that leads to bad results. Like I said in “catching up 1,” I had decided on the grip I was going to use for my cutter, and I had been practicing it in flat grounds, although unsuccessfully. After my first 5 cutters in my bullpen, Gorm came up to me and said I should try holding it off my 4 seam grip rather than my 2 seam grip. I tried it and the next 5 were so much better than the first. They weren’t perfect by any means, but I was able to throw it with much greater velocity and sharper break. Ever since then, I have been using the 4 seam cutter grip and have been very successful with it in bullpens.
Every bullpen I threw I got more consistent in terms of hitting my spots with my fastball, change up, and cutter. I did not start throwing my slider until March 2nd, because I wanted to really focus on my cutter and did not want to waste any of my 30 pitches throwing sliders. On March 2nd, I threw my final pen before spring training officially started. I threw all 4 of my pitches from the stretch and the wind up and felt as if my arm was at least 90% ready. I achieved my goal and I believe I am now ready for spring training.
This concludes my off season trilogy. I hope it was interesting and helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org