By John Bohnenkamp
Pitch counts have always been important for past Burlington Bees teams, but those were determined by the Major League Baseball parent club when the Bees were a Class A Midwest League affiliate.
Counts are still important now that the Bees are in the Prospect League for college players.
The league’s rules dictate how much a pitcher can be used, depending on the number of pitches he throws. And it can be costly if a team exceeds that usage.
The Bees have 17 pitchers on their roster, including outfielder Marcos Sanchez, who has pitched in two games this season. All but two of the pitchers have thrown in a game this season. Six pitchers have at least one start.
“I tried to get six or seven starters, (and) seven or eight guys who would work out of the bullpen,” said Bees manager Gary McClure. “A lot of these guys haven’t pitched a ton, but they’ve got really good arms. Just try to develop them into something.”
Bees starting pitchers have averaged 4 2/3 innings per start. Four starts have gone between 5-7 innings.
But innings don’t matter. It’s all about the pitch counts.
The league rules state:
• Any pitcher who throws two consecutive games must rest the next day
• Any pitcher who throws 30 pitches or less can pitch the next day
• Any pitcher who throws 31-45 pitches must rest for one day
• Any pitcher who throws 46-60 pitches must rest for two days
• Any pitcher who throws 61-80 pitches must rest for three days.
• Any pitcher who throws 81-90 pitches must rest for four days
• Pitchers cannot face a new batter after they have thrown 95 pitches. Should the pitch count be reached while a pitcher is facing a batter, he can complete the at-bat, but must be removed after it is completed.
And it can be financially costly if a manager doesn’t follow those rules. The first offense will result in a $250 team fine and an immediate one-game suspension for the violating team’s manager. The second offense would be a $500 fine and a 3-game suspension of the team’s manager. The third offense would be a $1,000 fine and a 6-game suspension of the team’s manager.
Pitch counts are kept by the official scorer. Bees pitching coach Scott Barnum also keeps track of the pitch counts in the dugout.
Sometimes the pitch counts determine in-game strategy as well.
“We have a chart with everybody’s name on it, when they pitched last,” McClure said. “We keep a pitch count with each guy, make a decision if we want to get them out and have them the next day or not. Because if they pitch over 30, they can’t pitch the next day.”
Four pitchers — Jacob Greenan, Garrett Langrell, Grady Gorgen and Greg Ryun — have pitched in four games this season. Langrell has had the most work with 7 2/3 innings. Gorgen has thrown five innings, Ryan has thrown 4 2/3 innings, and Greenan has thrown 3 2/3.
Most of the pitchers have had a full college season already, so they are stretched out for longer work if needed.
“They’ve got innings under their belt,” McClure said. “Or they’re young guys who haven’t pitched a ton, but they’ve got a really good arm, and needed innings. That’s kind of the combo we used to go get guys.”
Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Jacob Greenan throws in relief during Friday’s game against the O’Fallon Hoots. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)