Get an arm up

Pitch Smart and 19 youth organizations help amateur pitchers avoid overuse

Get an arm up

Pitch smarter, not harder.

During a time in baseball when pitchers are arguably throwing harder than they ever have before -- or at least have better tools to track their scorching fastballs -- that advice might be easier given than taken. After all, what young pitcher doesn't aspire to be the next Noah Syndergaard?

But it's advice that MLB's Pitch Smart program, launched in conjunction with USA Baseball in November 2014, hopes youth ballplayers take to heart before they take the mound. With another baseball season in progress, Pitch Smart -- which announced on Friday the 19 amateur and youth organizations that have fully adopted the program's guidelines and principles for 2016 -- hopes to prepare the next generation of Major Leaguers for not only their next game, but also the long haul.

"This game is all about repetition and having a fundamentally-sound base to what you're doing for your mechanics," said Diamondbacks pitcher Tyler Clippard, who played in the 2001 Senior League Baseball World Series as a 16-year-old before competing in last year's Fall Classic with the Mets. "A lot of the throwing programs that we do would be great for kids of any age."

"Every kid is different, but I'm a big fan of long toss," said Archie Bradley, the No. 2 prospect in the D-backs system. "And being in shape, running. Being a pitcher, you're out there for an inning sometimes and working as hard as you can, and the biggest thing is to be in shape and be prepared for it."

Pitch Smart offers guidelines to help players in various age groups protect their arms from overuse, one of the main causes of injury for pitchers. For example, players ages 11-12 are advised not to exceed 85 pitches in a given outing before resting for up to four days, while those 17-18 should cap their outings at 105 pitches with the same suggested rest period. The program also encourages all pitchers ages 18 or younger to take four months off from pitching each calendar year. Full Pitch Smart compliance is defined by the incorporation of these pitch count and rest period guidelines across all competitions.

"I know everyone's trying to prevent injuries and doing the best they can," Bradley said. "I think it's smart, especially at a younger age. Kids that are 10-15 years old don't need to be throwing 120 pitches or pitching three to four times a week. It's a good way to control it and keep kids healthy."

"Pitch Smart makes parents, coaches, and athletes aware of the damage that can be done by over-throwing," said Little League President Stephen D. Keener, whose organization is fully compliant. "Maybe most importantly, it has amplified the awareness of pitch counts. We can restrict kids to 85 pitches in a game, but we can't regulate if a kid throws 85 pitches in a Little League game and then throws 85 pitches the next day with a travel team. It really puts a lot of responsibility on coaches and parents."

While Little League Baseball and Dixie Baseball Boys & Majors return as fully compliant organizations from 2015, this season bring 17 new fully compliant Pitch Smart organizations: Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, Baseball Factory, Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, California Collegiate League, Cape Cod Baseball League, East Coast Pro Showcase, Florida Collegiate Summer League, Great Lakes Summer Collegiate Baseball League, Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, National Youth Baseball Championships, New England Collegiate Baseball League, New York Collegiate Baseball League, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Southern Collegiate Baseball League, Sunbelt Baseball League, USA Baseball and Valley Baseball League.

"We are pleased to see substantial growth in the number of organizations that are fully Pitch Smart compliant," said Chris Marinak, MLB's senior vice president of league economics & strategy. "The health of young arms is critical to the future prosperity of our sport and those who play it. We will continue to work alongside USA Baseball as we look to ensure that these guidelines become the standard for youth and amateur pitchers."

Allison Duffy-Davis is a managing editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.