Pitcher’s Fielding Practice
Adam Wainwright explains how paying attention to the little things can win the big games.
Adam Wainwright explains how paying attention to the little things can win the big games.
Being a good pitcher involves a lot more than throwing the ball toward the catcher. While it’s essential to always do your best to make the right pitch. The top pitchers know the most important thing is getting the hitter out—and that doesn’t always happen at home plate.
A pitcher at the top of their game dictates the tempo of the tilt. They control hitters from the mound. Field their position like a pro. And hold runners on base. Pitchers that reach the highest level pay attention to the little things. Because they know that’s where games are won and lost.
An ace pitcher is one of the most physically and mentally prepared players on the baseball field. They need to be athletic, dominant, and strategic. One such pitcher—is Versus athlete and MLB legend – Adam “Waino” Wainwright.
We’ve had Adam record some epic sessions with Versus. He’s covered Stretching and Arm Care, Bullpen and Pitch Grips, and A Winning Mentality, just to name a few.
Recently, we called him in for a training session on Pitcher’s Fielding Practice.
If you’re not familiar with Wainwright’s background, check out his profile on our Roster page. Without a doubt, Waino is one of the best in the world to teach all things pitching.
Details in this article were pulled from the exclusive video session Adam recorded with us. While we’ll cover the main points and do our best to translate his advice into text—there’s no substitute for seeing the lesson in action.
To get access to the full video, head over to Versus and sign up for one of our Game Plans.
Any of our packages will give you access to the Pitcher’s Fielding Practice training. Our paid plans include the entire library of video sessions, plus course content participation, and interactive content.
Next to seeing them in person, Versus is the closest thing available to 1:1 instruction from elite athletes and the world’s best coaches. And it’s all available at an affordable price, on a digital platform you can access anywhere.
Now, let’s get on to Adam Wainwright's masterclass on fielding practice for pitchers.
Waino introduces this session as “how to improve your outing even when you're not throwing the baseball to home plate.”
There are three fundamental skills involved in this:
- Holding Runners On Base. “Inevitably, when you’re pitching, you’re going to have runners on base,” says Wainwright. “They’re going to be on first, they’re going to be on second, and they’re going to be on third.” Everything you do as a pitcher outside of actually pitching—should be focused on holding runners on base.
- Mix Up Movements. One of the most effective ways to hold runners on base (and get an out), is to mix up movements. Vary hold times. Change up head looks. Make a good clean throw to first base every now and then. You’ll also want to give a runner a long stare to make him uncomfortable. These are all ways a pitcher can intimidate runners and make them think twice about taking that lead, or that base!
- Field Your Position. Just like every other player on the field, the pitcher has their position to cover. The second the ball leaves your hand from a pitch—you’re a fielder. No matter how well you’re pitching, there’s no excuse for giving anything less than 100% to fielding your position.
We’re going to move on to cover Adam’s advice on preparing for in-game situations. As we do, keep these fundamentals in mind. They apply to everything. Whether it’s covering first. Holding a runner on second. Or going for the out at third. These core skills are always involved.
First, we’ll cover fielding your position.
Waino explains that right after delivering the ball, a pitcher needs to be ready to act. You might need to tag a runner. Make a throw to a base. Or hustle to cover first base yourself. According to Adam, “The pitcher should be the best athlete on the field.”
When the ball comes right back after a pitch, the first thing you’ve got to do is catch it.
Then, to make a good clean throw, Wainwright recommends bringing it up to your body so everything resets.
Consider everything in play to be on point with your timing. You need to think about who’s hitting. How fast they are. And how hard they hit the ball.
If you’ve got a really fast runner—you may need to go straight to the ball and make a barehand throw right away.
Where you’ve got a slower runner. Work the angle you want. Set your feet. Field the ball properly. Then reset and throw.
The key to making the right decision is to understand your runner. Don’t rush and potentially compromise your throw unless you truly are rushed.
“Any time a ball is hit to the right side of the infield, a pitcher’s first reaction should always be to go cover first base,” states Wainwright.
To do this right—Adam again thinks about the hitter. If he’s a fast runner, Wainwright goes directly to the bag. “I’m not going to have time after I pitch and he hits the ball to beat him if I don’t,” he explains.
For slow to medium runners, he gets a good angle a little further up the line. Adam runs parallel to the line and steps on the base. He finishes in fair territory, ensuring he won’t get hit by the runner as they pass the base.
As he’s running to the base, Waino gives his teammate a big target to throw to. When he wants the ball—he’ll flash his glove like this.
But what about when the ball lands in between the pitcher and first baseman, and it’s not clear who should cover it?
The ‘In Between’ Play
The key to this play is communication.
If the ball isn’t easy for you to get to, let the first baseman field it and get set up on base for a solid, clean catch.
If it is yours—call it right away with a loud “I got it.”
That way, your teammate knows to clear out the way. You can either flip it to him, or continue on to tag the runner or beat them to the base.
Holding Runners at Second
Varying looks and holds is very important to keep runners from stealing bases.
To highlight just how much thought he puts into looks and holds, Adam lists some of his go-to options in the video:
“One time, I might come set. Don’t look at them (the runner) at all—and I deliver the ball to home plate.
Next, I’ll set up. Give them a good, long hard look—then pitch.
Other times, I might come set and look at him several times in a short period—then go to home plate.
Finally, I’ll make it look like I’m going to home plate—then do an inside move.”
An inside move is where the pitcher starts just like they would for a normal pitch, then turns back to second base. Here’s Waino running through it.
Keep in mind, an inside move will only work if it looks exactly like your regular pitch. You need to fool the runner into stealing, then get the ball to the shortstop side of the base so he’ll slide right into it.
Wainwright covers three other important points about holding runners at second.
- Be mindful of the runner looking inside your glove. If you set up with your glove wide open for the runner to see, they might read your grip and relay it to the hitter.
- Pitch when the runner’s heading back to base. If you catch the runner taking his lead off base and get him to take a step back—that’s the perfect time to pitch. Because once he’s started heading back to second, there’s no way he’s stealing to third.
- The ‘daylight’ play. Also known as the daylight pickoff. This play can be run when the second baseman comes a little way off the base with the runner, then flashes their glove to the pitcher as they run back to base. If the pitcher’s fast enough, they can spin and get the ball to their teammate to get the out.
Now, let's move on to third base.
The Out at Third
Getting the out at third is all about understanding the situation. Like covering first, think about who's at bat and how fast they are.
You’ll also need to consider if there are runners on both first and second. If so, you got a force play at third. If it’s just a runner on second base, someone’s got to tag him—so you have to make a good throw.
When it comes to fielding the ball, Adam reminds us to pay attention to footwork. And to stay low, in a strong athletic position after you catch the ball.
For a solid throw, you’re going to have to swing your hips and rotate your shoulder right around to third base—as below.
You don’t want to throw the ball from a poor position and have the ball sail over your third baseman's head.
All the Little Things Matter
Adam Wainwright has a name for solid pitchers.
The type of pitcher who’s dominant on the mound. Excels in the field. And works with his teammates to raise the standard of everyone's game.
He calls these players “complete pitchers.”
To become a complete pitcher, you have to be willing to go the extra mile and pay attention to the little things.
Holding runners at base. Fielding your position. Backing up bases. And helping your teammates out. These all need to be attended to—as well as making your best pitch to get that hitter out.
The key is not to get stuck on trying to figure out whether pitching or all the little things matter more. The fact is, both matter and both need your full attention.
For Wainwright, mastering the little things is about preparation. “It’s not always about being the fastest or the most agile,” he states. “But it is about being the most prepared.”
And the best way to be prepared, is to get clear on what needs to be covered—then get to work in practice!
If you’ve got a goal of becoming a complete pitcher like Adam Wainwright, sign up for one of the Versus Game Plans so you can get to work right now.
A Versus subscription gives you access to the full library of Waino’s exclusive video sessions. You’ll also have access to training from other baseball legends, such as Albert Pujols, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Ozzie Smith.
Our star-studded roster covers everything you need to know to take your game to the next level. From technical instruction, to practice planning, and mindset training. Even how to develop your own personal brand. If you’ve been wondering what the next step in your sporting journey is—you’ve found it! Don’t wait any longer. Head over to Versus now to reach your full potential.
If you want to go deeper on pitching mechanics and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to Adam’s lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.
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