High School Sports

WIAA proposes implementing pitch count in high school baseball

Pitcher Matthew Henckel of Gig Harbor High School throws in a 4A baseball regional playoff game at Heidelberg Sports Complex in Tacoma, May 23, 2015. Gig Harbor beat University, 3-0.
Pitcher Matthew Henckel of Gig Harbor High School throws in a 4A baseball regional playoff game at Heidelberg Sports Complex in Tacoma, May 23, 2015. Gig Harbor beat University, 3-0. Staff photographer

Puyallup High School baseball coach Marc Wiese already uses pitch counts.

So do other coaches across the state who consider the number of times a pitcher throws as more indicative of his fatigue as opposed to the number of innings he appears in.

On Wednesday, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released a proposed amendment that would alter pitching limitations from innings started to a pitch count.

The amendment would require at least three days of rest if a pitcher throws more than 85 pitches in a game, with a maximum of 110 pitches. The proposal will be heard by the WIAA’s representative assembly (which is composed of 53 elected school administrators) during its voting period from April 27-May 6.

“I would rather see the pitch count just to protect the kid,” said Wiese, a Wilson graduate who was drafted by the New York Mets in 1987 and is in his 21st season coaching at Puyallup.

“I think it’s important to have a number out there. You have to draw a line in the sand for the safety of the kid.”

In my first few years I would have pitched a guy 125 pitches. I know there’s coaches who say he hasn’t lost any velocity and he’s at 110 pitches — but at what point are we potentially doing that kid harm?

Puyallup baseball coach Marc Wiese

Wiese said his personal system is to rest a pitcher for four days if he throws more than 110 pitches in a game. And he said he would rather see the amendment call for four days of rest instead of three.

The WIAA’s current rule calls for a pitcher to rest two days if he throws four innings or more in a day. A pitcher could throw three pitches or 30 pitches in an inning — there is no distinction.

But the amendment proposes to rid the language of inning limits and create pitch-count thresholds:

▪  86-110 pitches require three days of rest

▪  61-85 pitches require two days of rest

▪  36-60 pitches require one day of rest

▪  1-25 pitches require no rest

If passed, the amendment would go into effect on Aug. 1.

But there’d certainly be complications — such as enforcement, accuracy and just who would track all these pitches.

South Kitsap coach Marcus Logue said he typically uses two staff members to track pitches. Wiese said he has someone tracking his own pitcher and the opposing pitcher.

“If I got a guy who is dealing, maybe I missed track of a few pitches,” said Auburn Mountainview coach Glen Walker. “Or do we have to pay someone to sit there who is bipartisan?

“If you want to ask for three days rest, OK, fine. If you want to put a pitch count at 110 pitches, OK, fine. But I don’t want to see coaches taking a kid out after 85 pitches exactly so he can use him two days later.”

The WIAA says the amendment’s goal is to reduce injury risks of throwing too many pitches. Research from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine showed that 15- to 19-year-olds accounted for 56.7 percent of Tommy John surgeries (or ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) performed in the U.S. between 2007-11.

A Rochester pitcher made national headlines two years ago when he threw 194 pitches in an extra-innings game, with Detroit Tigers pitcher David Price (then with the Tampa Bay Rays) suggesting that his coach be fired.

South Kitsap’s Lucas Knowles, a University of Washington commit who started in the Wolves’ 4A state title victory last season, had Tommy John surgery in August, and Logue said he’s unlikely to pitch this season. Logue said the surgery was due more to Knowles’ violent delivery and maturing frame than throwing too many pitches.

But Logue did say he’s guilty, as both Wiese and Walker also admitted, of allowing a pitcher’s count to reach higher than he would have liked during parts of his coaching career.

“We’ve had guys get long in their pitch count — probably longer than we normally would have let them go,” Logue said. “But I think in this day and age, in order to make sure kids are healthy — think whatever initiatives we can take, whether it’s concussions or arm safety, that we look at it as much as we can.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677