The Orioles Director of Pitching, ' Rick Peterson is one of the few pitching coaches in the game today that has developed his program based on the scientific principles and studies from Andrews, Fleisig, and ASMI. Long toss is a part of his training regime. "The best activity for building arm strength is long-distance throwing," Peterson said. "With Dr. Axe's study that the hardest throwers throw the farthest in mind, long-distance throwing builds strength, which therefore increases endurance and better long-term velocity."
Why is long toss so important to a coach, whose major-league staffs have shown above-average durability and results and fewer injuries than the norm?
"When you are conditioning a pitcher, you want to give him functional work," Peterson said. "That is, you want him to condition his muscles being used when he is pitching. Long toss is as close as you are going to get."
Fleisig agrees, "The best training for baseball pitching is baseball pitching. If you train from a mound at maximum effort, your muscles and neurological system would benefit. That being said, you cannot train from a mound (continually) because you would get hurt. You want a training program that is similar, but different enough to simulate pitching. A long-toss program is a good part of conditioning."
Jaeger agrees as his program is based on those very practices.
The remaining issue for long toss is the proper execution. What distances are appropriate? How should a major-league pitcher or even an amateur pitcher execute the long-toss exercise? For Peterson, his program is based on ASMI's research.
"The proper execution of long-distance throwing is when a player takes a crow hop and throws the ball as far as he can within his delivery. Within his delivery' means proper delivery with about 80-90 percent effort," Peterson said.
Peterson's assertion of "as far as he can" does validate Jaeger's program. Jaeger doesn't force his pitchers to throw at 360 feet but simply wants them "to unlock the arm's natural potential through long toss."
But, there are potential dangers with throwing distances out of a pitcher's normal range. "Good long toss is when you throw with proper mechanics and with a little arc. Most important, you don't compromise your arm path and you make sure that you have the proper finish," Leiter said.
Peterson agrees, but adds, "I want to know the angle of a pitcher's knee is when his foot makes contact with the ground. I want to make sure that the pitcher is throwing as close to his pitching delivery as possible. Everything we do trains the pitching delivery."
With the general consensus of the sports medical community and the practical application of the long-toss program by Peterson and certain other major-league coaches, there is just one remaining question: Why are many teams still having their pitchers long toss at 120 feet? If the ASMI rehabilitation program has injured pitchers long tossing at 180 feet to rehabilitate, why are healthy pitchers limited to 120 feet? The answer lies in the same area that continues to hold pitching back in not only the major leagues, but in amateur levels too. The answer is fear.
"Progressive thinking is almost absent in baseball," Carroll said. "There's almost complete ignorance at the field level."
Simply, most teams are not doing anything other than monitoring pitch counts and innings limits. Those, however, are about the end result. Proper long toss is one of the tools that can help decrease injuries.
Fleisig has hope that teams are becoming more progressive in terms of looking at methods to prevent injuries: "Teams have essentially two staffs at work, their medical staff and coaching staff. The medical staff works with team medical problems and rehab. The coaching staff works separately from the medical people, often at odds. Some teams are trying to have their medical staff and coaching staff work together now. It's an improvement. We are seeing the trend in the right direction. For instance, at our annual ASMI Baseball course, some coaches and front office people are attending whereas it was once attended by just medical personnel."
The trend may be going in the right direction, but judging by the amount of pitching injuries, it is far too slow.