Protecting Pitchers’ Arms– Win at All Cost not the Way to Go
It is OK to play to win at the youth baseball level as long as coaches put the health of kids first. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, or hardly ever the case. Coaches play their best players at the positions that help teams win and protecting pitchers’ arms are not a high priority for many baseball coaches. Of course, you are probably thinking, “playing to win is OK.” The problem comes in with kids, who pitch multiple innings and multiple games in a week. Nothing is more important than protecting youth pitcher’s arms.
A necessary coaching strategy, although not a strategy that gives teams the best chance at winning, is to have pitchers alternate positions as DH or outfield, instead of the defensive positions that do not allow rest for the arm.
Often in youth baseball, pitchers are infielders, positions that require more throwing and hard throws. Because teams can obviously only have one DH it is hard to avoid total throwing after kids pitch. Unless coaches are willing to sit pitchers on the bench for a day or two after pitching multiple innings, coaches should position pitchers who pitch multiple innings in the outfield, where many less throws are required. Protecting pitchers’ arms in this way should not greatly inhibit their team’s chances of winning, too.
This may not pose the best defense for winning games but it provides young arms the rest needed to avoid arm injury. Of course, another alternative is to carry more players on the team so proper rest is more easily done. Protecting pitchers’ arms and the arms of all players should be a high priority for baseball coaches at all levels of baseball.