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Pitching restrictions aren’t very restrictive

For those lucky enough to still be involved in the state baseball tournament, there are two games left to win in order to earn that always coveted state title.

For those lucky enough to still be involved in the state baseball tournament, there are two games left to win in order to earn that always coveted state title.

That could also mean two more games for one pitcher to start. The way the NJSIAA pitching rules are set up, a pitcher could pitch in Tuesday's public school state semifinals or Non-Public sectional final and then also throw in Saturday's state championship game.

At this time of year when others are looking at the strengths and weakness of state title contenders, it might be a better idea to examine the NJSIAA pitching rules.

Not to overload anybody with details, but basically the rules aren't the most restrictive.

A pitcher can throw a total of 10 innings over a four-day period. If he throws more than five innings, he must have three calendar days rest and if he throws exactly five innings he must have two calendar days rest.

That means a player could technically throw 10 innings in say, a state semifinal on Tuesday and another 10 in the state final on Saturday.

That is 20 innings in five days.

While that may be an extreme example, it still illustrates the leniency in the rules.

So the basic problem with the rule is that pitchers are allowed to come back too soon after throwing. It's not much more complicated than that.

"I can understand where people see it that way," said NJSIAA assistant director Larry White, who is in charge of overseeing baseball. "It comes down to the coaches doing what is best for the young student athletes."

No question there are many coaches who do care about the student athletes, but when there are big games to win, it becomes a little more tempting to trot the ace out more frequently.

Many coaches advocate using a pitch count, but realistically, that would be too difficult to monitor accurately. Innings can obviously be monitored.

Bill Alvaro is the coach at Washington Township where he was a standout pitcher before pitching in college for Southwestern Louisiana. He said that looking at innings pitched doesn't tell the entire story.

"When I pitched, there was no pitch count and you started a game and were in relief the next game and there were never any arm problems," said Alvaro, whose team will meet Jackson in Tuesday's state Group 4 semifinal at Rider University. "The key is taking care of yourself."

Alvaro says he will send a player to the mound once a week in the regular season, but will use a pitcher more in the postseason.

Alvaro is correct. So much depends on how a pitcher is handled.

Yet, not every team has a coach with Alvaro's experience, meaning someone who pitched in college and knows how to bring along a pitcher.

No coach would intentionally hurt a player's future, but it could happen even if they are simply abiding by the pitching rules.

One possible change is to allow more days off for pitchers between starts. It would make more sense to have a pitcher not be able to throw for four calendar days after pitching five or more innings.

Major League teams, with pitchers who have the best access to training and coaching, employ five-man rotations. A Major League pitcher, in the estimation of managers, needs at least four calendar days off between starts - all of which means there is the possibility that high school pitchers in New Jersey will have less time off between some starts than Major League pitchers. That may be the best argument for looking into changing the pitching rules.