I’m not going to tell you exactly how you should prepare for a start. That’s for you to decide. Pitchers' routines are as different as their throwing motions. I encourage you to find what works for YOU, and stick to it.
What I will do, is outline the different phases of a starting pitcher’s pregame routine and give you a few SUGGESTIONS on how to maximize each one.
END OF LAST START
Preparation for your next start begins directly after your last. Whether you had a good outing or a bad one, process it and move on. Reflect on your successes and failures briefly, taking with you only positive thoughts and constructive critiques to work on. Discard the rest.
In the days between starts I encourage you to STAY IN THE MOMENT and FOCUS ON THE PROCESS.
Your next start will be here soon enough, no need to rush. There’s no need to live in the past or the future. Take one day at a time and focus on the task at hand for that day with complete focus. Do your throwing drills with purpose. Warm up correctly. Take care of your arm. Doing the smalls things each day will put you in a better position to succeed in your next start.
NIGHT BEFORE NEXT START
The night before is when it’s time to start directly focusing on your next start. Visualization is the name of the game during this phase. Start playing out each pitch in your mind. See the game play out batter after batter as you execute your pitches in your mind. See your desired result.
Visualization is a great tool to use especially if you are playing at a higher level and have scouting reports on opposing hitters. Play each at bat out against each hitter. See yourself executing your strategy pitch after pitch, batter after batter. Work your way through the entire lineup. If you’re a real mental warrior, work through all nine innings in your mind.
Also, you might want to establish a "night before" activity and meal.
DAY OF START
Here is where meals and activities should be absolute routine. Routines are all about getting your mind in a consistent and familiar state. The countdown to the first pitch is on, so you’d better start dialing it in at this phase.
During my career, I knew guys who watched certain movies. I knew guys who liked to lay down in the dugout, and I knew guys who liked to shag balls the day of their start. It's up to you. To each their own. Your "DAY OF" routine is all about what works for you. You decide.
If you’re an over thinker or stresser like I was, maybe you should read or watch TV up until warm ups to get your mind off things. If you have a hard time focusing and dialing in, maybe music is what you need.
The key is to have self-awareness. Know your strengths and weaknesses and do what’s BEST FOR YOU.
Physically, every pitcher warms up differently. Do what’s best for you and your arm. However, mentally, all pitchers should have the same agenda during warm ups...
From every throw on the foul line to every pitch in the bullpen it’s all about mentally dialing it in those last few clicks. Don't just throw to throw. Warm up with purpose.
Work on all of your pitches. Locate pitches inside, outside, up and down. Make any small needed adjustments with your pitching coach, but don’t over think mechanics in the bullpen.
Even if you are struggling in your warm ups, DONT STRESS. When you get in the game it’s all about competing and making adjustments on the fly anyways. Feed yourself a steady dose of positive self talk. Be convinced you’re the baddest man on the planet.
DUGOUT TO FIRST PITCH
There’s not too much to cover here. You’ve put in the work, you’ve already gotten their entire lineup out in your mind, you’ve dialed in your focus, and you’ve physically warmed up your body.
At this point, what I do recommend is two words…
GRATITUDE and PERSPECTIVE.
Be grateful that you’re about to go play the greatest game on the planet. The game you love. Take a look at the green grass and the orange clay. Take it all in. You’re not always going to play this game and you never know when you’ll throw your last pitch. Enjoy it. Savor it.
Now, GO DOMINATE.