Spin Series with Lacey Waldrop: Change-up Drills

Written By: Lacey Waldrop

Developing a Devastating Change-up

If you want to dominate in the circle, I suggest you start mastering your change-up. To do so, it's important to practice your change-up regularly. In my previous spin series article, I mentioned the importance of selling your change-up and creating deception. To do so effectively, you'll want to throw this pitch for a called strike, and generate swings and misses. Below are some of my favorite drills to develop a devastating change-up. I almost hesitate to call them drills, as these exercises are more about changing visuals and using constraints to improve the trajectory of the pitch.

Strings

By now, you've probably realized that I love using strings to work on pitch depth and movement. For the change-up, there are two exercises that I love to use the strings for. Both will involve a mid-distance string, and the exercises can be used interchangeably, as they're relatively the same. I have found that some pitchers respond better to different goals, so try out the thought process for both and see which works best for you.

Pitching Under the String

Points of Emphasis:

  • Your goal is to throw your change-up underneath the string.
  • Set the string directly between the rubber and home plate around 3 and a half feet high.
  • This may seem a little high initially, but you'll find that you can still throw the pitch for a low strike if you focus on maintaining a strong finish with your legs and your release.
  • This drill is helpful for a pitcher that throws a "floaty" change-up, as they'll be forced to throw the pitch on a line with late movement to accomplish the task.

Pitching Through the String

I originally used this video for other movement pitches like drop and rise, but you should try to tunnel each pitch you throw. If every pitch looks similar as it's on the way to the plate, the hitter will find it difficult to hold back their swing. This drill is ideal for chase pitches or creating swings and misses with your change-up.

Points of Emphasis:

  • Hang the string around hip height directly between the rubber and home plate.
  • Alternate both your change-up and your fastball.
  • You can also alternate each pitch separately with your change-up. You need to be able to throw it following any pitch in a game, so it's helpful to do the same in practice.
  • Your goal is to throw each pitch through the string.
  • Make a mental note of where the pitches that hit the string cross the plate.
  • This will give you an idea of where you need to start your pitch to have it cross the plate for either a strike or a chase.

Long Distance Change-ups

Points of Emphasis:

  • Complete this exercise from 55-60 ft.
    • For younger pitchers (10u-12u) adjust the distance accordingly.
  • The goal of this exercise is to maintain the same effort level as a fastball.
  • Without proper leg drive and a strong finish, the pitch will not make it all the way to the plate.
  • For added emphasis on creating the same body movements, alternate fastball, and change-up.
  • If the pitcher is still having trouble selling her change-up, take a video of both pitches so that she can see the visual for herself.

14" Ball

Points of Emphasis:

  • The 14" ball can help pitchers get a better feel for their release.
  • This drill may be difficult for younger pitchers, as their hands may not be big enough to grip the ball, but I like to use it for older pitchers who struggle with change-up consistency.
  • Start throwing the 14" ball with your normal progression at a closer distance then work back to throwing it from a full distance.
  • You can also alternate between throwing the normal ball and throwing the 14" ball.

Putting it all Together

Change-ups are unique to the individual, and what works for someone else might not work for you. Take the time to find the change-up that's right for you, and practice it CONSTANTLY. In the same way, you have to find out which drills and exercises work for your specific change-up, so take the time to try out a few. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it and make it part of your daily bullpen routine.

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