Peterson on the mental part of the game and minor league pitch counts

Earlier today, I published an entry with new Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson and his goal to have the organization’s pitchers work down in the strike zone and get quick outs this year.

As it relates to less-experienced minor league pitchers, Peterson wants them to become better at the mental part of the game.

“One thing we want is to get them to think properly and process properly in game competition, especially the most talented pitchers,” Peterson said. “When people - analysts and scouts - classify a guy as talented, typically they are referring to high-end velocity. But high-end velocity, in order to perform well at the big league level, you have to locate. You have to be able to hit the glove, it’s a target-hitting skill. I say it tongue in cheek, but you are a professional glove hitter.

“Sometimes you hear pitchers say, ‘I didn’t have my good stuff today.’ But you have the same stuff you always had most of the time, but you didn’t hit the glove. You threw pitches in the hitting zone. Look at (Justin) Verlander, some of the best stuff in the big leagues, but one out of every six hits he gave up was a homer. What does that tell you? That even his stuff, when it’s not located, gets hit.”

So in addition to wanting the pitchers to have efficient pitching mechanics and quality stuff, Peterson wants them to have quality thoughts.

“We are having meetings with pitchers and talking about the mental side of the game. I have some background in sport psychology. We are constantly talking to pitchers about the mental part of the game,” he said.

“We want to know, what are you focusing on? I wish we could record some of the best pitchers and what their thoughts were and what they are saying to themselves during a game and show it to young pitchers. Teach them - here is how you think in a big league game. Let them see what they are focused on.

“So often a guy in the minors may be out there not locating their fastball and they start having mechanical thoughts. Guys in the big leagues that are really good, they don’t flood their mind with a lot of mechanical thoughts, they flood their mind with a lot of target-hitting thoughts. Some young pitchers don’t understand that this is a target-hitting skill.”

Peterson believes it will be important for the Orioles this year to keep a close tab on minor league pitch counts.

“Pitch counts and innings have to be monitored very closely. These are major investments, some of your top players. That is why the investment the Orioles made in bringing the ASMI (American Sports Medical Institute) lab to spring training to get biomechanical analysis of some of our pitchers was a major investment toward trying to keep guys healthy,” Peterson said.

“I would be surprised it we have anybody that is at the 90-pitch range (come opening day). I think we will probably be with many guys in the 75-80 range. Minor league spring training is shorter and some guys come back from big league camp and may not have as many innings in. We have a handful of guys now at the 60-65 range, so their next outing will go to 75-80 and we’ll start the season in that range.”

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