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Oregon Coaches Deal With New Pitch Count Limits

Like many associations around the country striving to protect high school pitchers from overuse, the Oregon School Activities Association has put a pitch-count rule into effect that requires rest days based on level of use on a given day — similar to the template used by Little League Baseball.
“Obviously at some point (the lack of adequate rules has) been abused,” Gresham High coach Ryan Miller said. “When you look nationwide, the number of Tommy John surgeries done on high schools kids is way up. You have to look at the influence of club ball and youth coaches who either aren’t aware or don’t care, and they’ll pitch a kid in the morning and come back in the same tournament and throw him again that afternoon. It’s like concussions in other sports — this is a place where we are trying to reduce risks.”

The Mount Hood Conference schedule is designed to play three games on a typical week, often facing a league foe in a series. The new rule would all but require teams to send out a new starter for each of those contests. Any pitcher that throws into the 86-110 count would require four rest days, meaning he wouldn’t be eligible to return for full action until the fifth day.

In the Mount Hood Conference, coaches from each side will meet every couple innings to compare notes and make sure pitch counts are accurate for the given game. Much like reporting scores, coaches are required to enter pitch counts on the OSAA website following each game. Teams will forfeit games in which any violations of the days of rest of the 110-pitch daily maximum are found.

“You have to be aware when you are approaching those cut-off numbers, and you have to check pitch counts to know who’s available each day,” Miller said. “It will take some getting used to.”

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The new rule encourages coaches to develop more available arms with their teams. Trotting out the ace for each and every big moment is no longer an option.

“I’ve always been overly cautious, so I don’t see it affecting the way we do things much, but it will force coaches to dip into the well a bit more. Instead of using 3-4 pitchers, teams will have to go to 5 or 6 guys,” Centennial coach Kevin Christie said.

The rule change forces teams to rely on a full staff of pitchers, making success in league and in the playoffs a true team effort.

“It makes it more about the team — it requires you to have some depth,” Christie said. “You can no longer just ride one guy through the entire playoffs.”

The biggest challenges come with rainy weather and small rosters.

Most area teams have already had to cancel a handful of games, meaning that sunny weeks can stack up with four or five contests if schools choose to make up their rain-outs.

“It’s a big challenge, especially when doubleheaders start to stack up,” Delafield said. “In the past, we would have had to forfeit games.”

Teams that have short rosters will have limited options, perhaps being required by the pitch count to send position players to the mound.

At the end of the day, it’s a move sparked by safety concerns.

“We spent time in the off-season developing a couple players so they would be able to throw,” Barlow coach Chris Jensen said. “You want to look at the long-term perspective of the player, especially those who have the ability to play after high school — you want them going into that with a fresh arm.”

Mandatory rest periods

Pitches Rest Days
1-25 0
26-45 1
46-60 2
61-85 3
86+ 4

* players have a 110-pitch maximum on full eligibility

From GameChanger and David Ball.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development