How Many Pitches is Too Many For Young Pitchers?

Many baseball fans are familiar with the now infamous Tommy John surgery - a procedure to repair torn elbow ligaments common to baseball pitchers. For every Stephen Strasburg who has this medical procedure and goes on to have a great MLB career, there are thousands of young men and women who throw their arms out permanently at a young age. Pitching is extremely taxing on the arm and on the body as a whole. Youth coaches and parents of young pitchers have the responsibility to protect their players from unnecessary wear and tear.

Today, we will be reviewing Major League Baseball’s Official pitch guidelinesfor youth athletes and how to incorporate these recommendations into your team’s pitcher management.

Pitch Counts for Pitchers Aged 10 and Under

According to the Pitch Smart program run by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, the following limits should be followed for players up to age 10.

Pitches per game:

  • Maximum of 50 pitches for players aged 8 and under

  • Maximum of 75 pitches for pitchers aged 10 and under

Rest Days Between Pitching Appearances:

  • No rest necessary for 20 pitches or fewer

  • Minimum of one (1) days rest for 21-35 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of two (2) days rest for 36-50 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of three (3) days rest for 51-65 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of four (4) days rest for 66-75 pitches thrown


At this age, players’ physical development will be all over the charts. It is important to focus on pitching fundamentalsto help youth athletes throw the ball safely and effectively. While it may seem like kids are not throwing hard enough to do any significant damage to their arms, adhering to these guidelines gives players the best chance to stay healthy in the present and into the future.

Little League and Pony League Inning Recommendations

Pitches per game:

  • Maximum of 85 pitches for players aged 11-12 (Little League)

  • Maximum of 95 pitches for pitchers aged 13-14 (Pony League)

Rest Days Between Pitching Appearances:

  • No rest necessary for 20 pitches or fewer

  • Minimum of one (1) days rest for 21-35 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of two (2) days rest for 36-50 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of three (3) days rest for 51-65 pitches thrown

  • Minimum of four (4) days rest for 66+

You may notice that the rest days are essentially identical from ages 7-13. This goes to show how important adequate rest can be for young arms. Youth athletes will almost always report that they feel good and they are ready to go, but basic physiology requires rest in order to recover. Little League and beyond is also when playing for multiple teams becomes more common. Coaches and parents should be cognizant of coordinating pitching appearances for more than one team.

Rest Days for Pitchers High School and Up

Beginning around this time, pitchers will be developing into their adult bodies. This means greater velocity, throwing breaking balls, and also a capacity for a larger workload. While greater strength and athleticism do improve a pitcher’s ability to throw additional pitches, they also place greater strain on a youth athlete’s arm. Recommended limits include:

Pitches per game:

  • No more than 95 pitches per game for pitchers aged 15-16

  • No more than 105 pitches per game for pitchers aged 17-18

  • No more than 120 pitches per game for pitchers aged 19-22

Rest Days Between Pitching Appearances:

  • No rest necessary for 30 pitches or fewer

  • At least one (1) day of rest after throwing 31-45 pitches

  • At least two (2) days of rest after throwing 46-60 pitches

  • At least three (3) days of rest after throwing 61-80 pitches

  • At least four (4) days of rest after throwing 81-105 pitches

  • At least five (5) days of rest after throwing 106-120 pitches

This is where the numbers really go up. 120 pitches is uncommon at any level these days. We like to remind coaches, players and parents that these are upper limits, not the recommended number of pitches that should be thrown per appearance. There is no reason to push a young athlete to throw 100 plus pitches unless everyone involved is confident it is the right thing to do.

How to Protect Youth Pitchers’ Arms

As we have identified, the most effective way to limit the risk of injury to a young arm is to monitor pitches, innings, and appearances. There are still many other methods by which coaches and parents can help their youth athletes stay healthy and effective as a pitcher. These can include strength training, learning proper fundamentals, stretching adequately, and much more.

Perhaps the most important and most often neglected amongst these injury prevention methods is making sure that pitchers are properly warmed up. Warming up for a pitching appearance takes time and patience. Youth athletes tend to want to go from 0-100. That is a recipe for injuring a young arm. Take things slow, and build up to where pitchers are comfortable giving full effort before they step foot on the mound.

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