While they only play once, maybe twice per week, starting pitchers do not get days off. The days in between starts are crucial to getting ready for what the fans see every fifth day. Whether it is recovery treatment, workouts, or scouting the next opponent, starting pitchers are working hard between each outing.
Getting ready for the next start begins as soon as the previous outing comes to an end. Strength and Conditioning Coach Henry Torres and Athletic Trainer Brad LaRosa play integral roles in getting the pitchers physically ready for each start.
Following a start, pitchers will go back to the training room for arm care treatment and maintenance.
"That night [the starter] will go in after his start and ride the bike to get a little bit of a flush and then we will put him through arm care to help the shoulder, elbow, and forearm recover a little faster from pitching," Torres said.
In addition to the arm care workouts the pitcher will either apply isolated ice to his arm or hop in the cold tub.
"Every pitcher is different. They all have things that they've done over their baseball careers in college and pro ball," said Torres. "The trainer lays out the plan for the guys so once they come out of the game I'll go in there and do all their maintenance and preventative work so usually it consists of elbow, shoulder, and forearm work."
The reigning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week, Chris Smith is the senior member on the 2017 Sounds pitching staff and likes to keep his friends and family in the loop as to how his outing went each night.
"I've got a lot of people that follow me and want me to respond, good or bad, with how I did in the game so I'll keep my sisters, my mom, my wife, and my daughters informed and I'll FaceTime them and let them know how I did," Smith said.
The day following a start is vital for arm recovery and flushing out any lingering lactic acid. Pitchers will generally go on a long run to flush the body and get it moving and the blood flowing. Smith uses his run the day after a start to take in the sights and sounds of whatever city he is in as well as a mental flush.
"[The run] is a mental flush more than anything for me," he said. "It's usually about an hour run through the whole city and I'll take some pictures so I can send them back to my daughters, my wife, and my family."
Following the run, the pitchers come back for heavy lower body and core workouts. Torres said they like to give the pitchers a day off from upper body workouts due to the stress their arms went through in their start the previous day. If the pitcher's arm is still sore after his lower body workout he will go in and see LaRosa for additional treatment. That could be a massage, cupping, or scraping to get the muscles that are still tight stretched back out.
Day two entails either a side session off the mound or a full bullpen session on the mound depending on the preference of the pitcher. A side session gives the pitcher a chance to get a feel for his pitches again in preparation for his next start. The workout on the second day following a start often consists of an upper body workout to get the muscles working again.
Some pitchers vary on whether they throw their bullpen on day two or three after a start. Smith prefers to throw his on day two of his routine. Under the direction of Sounds Pitching Coach, Rick Rodriguez, Smith will head out to the field with one of the catchers and play catch from about 120 feet to warm up for his bullpen session. Pitchers generally throw anywhere from 30 to 40 pitches during a session. Smith uses his to get the feel back of throwing on an incline and focuses on repeating his delivery more than anything else.
"I need to repeat my delivery so my arm is in the right spot to throw all three of my pitches," Smith said.
Smith has a fastball, changeup, and slider in his repertoire but tends not to throw sliders during his bullpen session.
"It's a high pressure pitch that my body is probably still not recovered from the day I threw so I don't want to put a high pressure pitch on a low intensity, low effort workout where I could create bad habits. So I'll really just work my fastball and changeup in my bullpen and save my sliders for playing catch and in the game," said Smith.
The third day is when Smith begins to prepare for his next opponent. He will watch film and research scouting reports of the opposing hitters that he will likely face. He will also get another run in and do some agility drills with Torres.
The day before a start the pitchers will play catch, stretch, and get a light lower body workout in to give the body a tune up.
On the day of a start, each pitcher is different. Some prefer to stay off their feet while Smith enjoys being active.
"I'll get up in the morning and get some coffee and a good breakfast and then I'll start walking around. If I'm in a different city on the road I'll go walk around and see some sights. If I'm at home I'll get up in the morning and go do something like wash my truck or just be active," he said. "I'll then head to the ballpark early and stretch with the pitchers and shag fly balls in batting practice just to move around rather than just sit dormant in the clubhouse."
As game time approaches the starter and his battery mate will head out to the field to play catch. After playing catch and getting the arm moving they will head to the bullpen mound and start ramping up the intensity until the pitcher feels his arm is ready to go.
It is then game time and all the work the pitcher put in during the previous few days is put to the test and the cycle begins all over again.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.