First Pitch: What Does a Starter Do Between Starts?

Jeff Locke
Jeff Locke had his start moved back a day after throwing on Sunday.

Today the Pirates called up Brandon Cumpton to make a spot start, due to the fact that Jeanmar Gomez and Jeff Locke both threw on Sunday. There was some discussion on the site today about the decision, with questions as to why Gomez and Locke couldn’t throw. The end result of all of this is that Locke was moved back a day, Gomez will go to the bullpen for the short-term, and Cumpton made his start instead of Gomez. So it’s not really a big deal that Cumpton started today. However, the feeling I got today was that a lot of people don’t know what a pitcher does between starts.

A pitcher’s workload is very detailed, and a pitcher is usually on a strict schedule. There could be different schedules for different pitchers, but in the minor leagues most of the pitchers have the following approach.

After Their Start: They get on the exercise bike or run laps in the outfield, looking to do some “flush” exercising. They’ll also do some arm care.

One Day After Their Start: This is the first off-day. They will do a lift and a heavy workout this day.

Two Days After Their Start: This is the day where they will throw a bullpen. The bullpen is usually in preparation for the next start, using all of their pitches and practicing for what they will see against their next opponent.

Three Days After Their Start: On this day they won’t throw a bullpen, but they will workout and loosen up their body in preparation for the next start.

Four Days After Their Start: Also known as the day before their next start. This is just a day off.

Five Days After Their Start: Usually the next start, unless there’s an off-day involved.

Like I said, not every pitcher is the same. But if we apply the above schedule to Locke and Gomez, you can see why they wouldn’t be ready.

Locke: He pitched on the 25th. His bullpen would have been the 28th, and five days rest actually would have been on Sunday, so that would have been his normal start day with no off-days. The reason he couldn’t go today was because he got warmed up to go in the game. Considering how well he has pitched, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to give him an extra day off after he warms up in the bullpen (and a starter warming up is different than a reliever warming up).

Gomez: He pitched on the 26th. He would have normally been scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, which means Monday and Tuesday would have been the workout and off-days. That would put Sunday as the bullpen day. That’s why Gomez couldn’t start today, because he threw that bullpen session on Sunday, in preparation for his next start, which was supposed to be on Wednesday. If you move him up to Tuesday, then you either take away the workout to get him loosened up, or you take away the day off before his start. In either case, it’s not really a good plan, since you’re altering his routine, and taking away one of the days that is aimed at protecting his arm.

I thought it would be interesting to share this, just because I don’t think many people realize what happens between starts. I know that I didn’t think about it much before I found out the routines. I just dismissed the time off as four days of rest before a pitcher throws again on the fifth day. The truth is that it’s a non-stop process, and it’s scheduled in detail. There are some cases where you can change the schedule and move a guy up, but you usually need to know that in advance. In almost every case it is easier to move a pitcher back a day, rather than moving a pitcher up one day. It’s also safer on the arm.

Maybe some view that as too protective and unnecessary. However, it’s not like the decision mattered much. Jeff Locke got moved back one day and Brandon Cumpton started instead of Jeanmar Gomez. Cumpton gave up three runs in 5.2 innings of work and didn’t get any help from the offense. That’s not a bad trade off in exchange for protecting the arms of Locke and Gomez.


Links and Notes

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.


**Andrew Lambo is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month For June.

**Kris Johnson is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month For June.

**Prospect Watch: Pimentel With Another Good Start; Taillon Doesn’t Have Best Stuff.

**Minor League Schedule: Heredia Headlines Wednesday’s Schedule.

**International Bonus Money Already Changing Hands.

**Nick Buckner’s Bonus Announced — Draft Bonus Pool Updates.


**Phillies Chip Away at Cumpton to Snap Pirates’ Win Streak.

**Pirates Call Up Brandon Cumpton For Tonight’s Start.

**Pirates Notebook: Rotation In Flux, Phillies GM Talks Deadline.

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just curious Tim, on your thoughts on LA’s Hyun-Jin Ryu.
according to this article,–dodgers-let-hyun-jin-ryu-stick-to-a-routine-that-goes-counter-to-american-custom-045243125.html
he doesn’t throw at all between his starts, and hasn’t for years.
I know it’s the exception, but wondering if this is the new way of the future to conserve fragile Pitchers arms.

Kevin Snyder

Any chance we could get an article outlining what Doc Ellis did between starts?


I realize it is a different world than it was 40-50 years ago, but pitchers like Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Bob Friend used to pitch every 4th day and would throw 120-125 pitches per game and 290-300 innings per season. And their careers were not shortened by arm issues. I don’t know if they threw between starts. They probably did. And Gibson threw in the mid to upper 90s.

Vince Riedy

Back in the day pitchers were conditioned to pitch every fourth day and throwing that many inning that was the routine. Somewhere along the way it was decided that 5 man rotations were better and the regiment changed.

It is also worth noting back in the day pitchers would coast through weaker hitters and amp it up for the big hitters so to pace themselves to go nine. Now the philosophy is for the starters to go balls out for hopefully at least six and let the bullpen take over.


Agree, as I said it is a different world. On the other hand, there are just as many .200 hitters today as there were back in the day.


Wow… I asked a dumb question yesterday and get an article written for me lol. Thanks Tim. Always thought it was just 4 off days. Clearly starting Cumpton was the only option.

Dom DiDominic

Cumpton turned out to be a great move. Starting him not only gives Locke an extra day, but now Gomez is back in the pen. With AJ, they now are back to a 5 man with Gomez as long/6th & Cumpton as a stretched out guy in AAA.

IC Bob

Cumpton turned out to be a great move? We lost he pitched below average and our rotation is messed up. What was great about it? Pitchers through the beginning of time have changed their routines when necessary. I don’t think they would have had a problem here especially since we had two off days in the last 5 days. Yes it would have been nice if the team would have plated a few runs but lets not get carried a way and call pitching Cumpton a great move. Heck his best highlight was he got a hit (which is unusual for our pitchers). On a side note we would not be having this discussion if Inge was even remotely good and had taken the walk in the 9th on Sunday when it was offered.


yes, let’s screw with our pitchers and just let em pitch. be a MAN!
heck, while we’re at it, why don’t we just go back to a 4 man rotation with 130 pitch limits.
screw sucky Morton. screw years of research on pitchers’ arm frailty.
It worked when our great grandfathers watched baseball.


Cumpton pitched fine. He is a 5th starter at best and put together the kind of start a 5th starter would. Yes, back in the day pitchers change their routines but that was back in the day. Very rarely, if ever does this happen nowadays unless you are a workhorse looking to win the world series. Doubtful Locke or Gomez get injured pitching on short rest but why take the chance? Cumpton is what he is, a 5th starter with average stuff who gave us a chance to win.

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