SAN FRANCISCO — A reader named Dave emailed to ask about Clay Buchholz throwing four “simulated innings” on Saturday and what that meant.
It was a really good question. So here are rough definitions of some of the pitching terms you’ll hear tossed around:
Throwing a bullpen: Every starter will throw in the bullpen at least once between starts. It’s a way to maintain their arm strength and stay sharp. Typically these sessions take place early in the afternoon before batting practice.
Long toss: Just like it sounds, it’s tossing a ball from long distances. Pitchers will start at 60 feet and go further back, out to 120 feet. It’s a good way to build up arm strength.
Throwing from flat ground: Pitchers often will throw their pitches from 60 feet to a squatting catcher while standing in the outfield. It’s less stressful on their arms to throw from flat ground than from a mound.
Simulated innings: While throwing in the bullpen, pitchers will toss 15 or so pitches then sit down for a few minutes. Then get back up again and throw 15 more pitches. This replicates throwing innings in a game. Sometimes a teammate or coach will stand at the plate holding a bat.
Simulated game: This is basically pitching to teammates who are allowed to swing. The point is usually to get three outs per inning or throw a certain number of pitches. The batters don’t run the bases and there aren’t any fielders. It’s just the pitcher, catcher and hitter. A coach or the catcher will call balls and strikes.
Rehabilitation assignment: A player on the disabled list can be assigned to a minor league team as part of their recovery. Position players have a limit of 20 days and pitchers 30. Veteran players can refuse such an assignment but that rarely happens. Typically, at least with pitchers, a team prefers a Triple A or Double A home game.
Throwing program: When a pitcher is coming back from injury, they almost always have a series of steps to take first. They progress from playing catch to long toss and then to flat ground, bullpens, simulated innings, simulated games and then a rehab assignment.
That may sound like a lot. But with the money teams have invested in pitchers, methodical building up only makes sense.