How did Gilbert’s unique work begin? His private pitching coach explains

Mar 2, 2024, 1:11 PM

Seattle Mariners Logan Gilbert...

Logan Gilbert pitches for the Mariners against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 19, 2021. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

When Randy Sullivan, the CEO of the Florida Baseball ARMory, first met Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, it was a decade ago Gilbert was a young high schooler who had a serious problem.

Gilbert was great on the mound to the point where he had early scholarship offers. But pitching hurt his elbow so much he couldn’t throw for very long and needed a lot of time to recover. It was such an issue, Sullivan said, that Gilbert and his family didn’t want to accept any scholarships because he couldn’t perform up to the level those schools were expecting.

“So we got to work and the first mission was to get rid of his elbow pain, and we did that – it took a few months – and the next thing we know, he just started performing better, just kind of took off and went to Stetson and have a wonderful career there,” Sullivan told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Monday.

After a great career at Stetson, the Mariners drafted Gilbert 14th overall in 2018. A few years later, he debuted in 2021 and has ben a key part of their starting rotation ever since. He’s been working with Sullivan for a decade now.

“He’s been coming back to us ever since. Every offseason, he’s in there again,” Sullivan said. “Logan, he’s the kind of guy that he has his routines, and he’s kind of assembled an idea about how he wants to go about things. And it’s unique, of course, and it’s different than most (in baseball).”

The ARMory, Sullivan said, approaches workouts and training different than others, Sullivan said.

“A lot of people, they use a lot of cognitive input, a lot of verbal cues … and what we do is take a more subconscious approach and go, ‘Here’s a bunch of things we want you to do,’ and then you start doing them, and then your body kind of changes suddenly and subconsciously,” he said. “It kind of finds its own way.”

That’s because every guy, especially Gilbert, is a “unique puzzle” that requires “an individualized solution.”

“Every year, he comes back and we keep working, and he just tries to add more,” Sullivan said of Gilbert. “What I love about him, he’s not satisfied. I mean, he can easily rest on his merits and go back and do the same thing again. He just continually wants to get better every single year.”

Gilbert is a relentless worker who spends a ton of time at the ARMory, Sullivan said, and one day this offseason highlighted that. That was when Mariners manager Scott Servais flew to Florida to watch Gilbert throw and then talk about the team over lunch.

“He came down here and he wanted to watch Logan throw his bullpen, so Logan warmed up and he threw his bullpen and it went really well and Scott was really pleased with all the progress he was making and he took him out to lunch,” Sullivan recalled. “… And we thought ‘OK, that’s it for today. He’s gonna do his bullpen and punch and go eat lunch with the manager. Well he did go and eat lunch with the manager, and then he came strolling back into the ARMory and got the rest of his work in after having a lunch appointment with his manager. Like who does that? He just knew he had to get his work in, so he came back.”

Logan Gilbert’s bag of tricks

Mariners fans know Gilbert is very unique when it comes to his routine.

Whether he’s pitching that day or not, Gilbert has a big bag of different training tools that he brings with him everywhere, and he makes full use of what’s at his disposal. That started because of Sullivan and the ARMory.

“We kind of introduced things to him. Like we have a giant toolbox full of things for guys to try and do and every guy find his own way the things that work for him,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he and his partners realized that the “status quo” for training doesn’t work for everyone, and some players require more unique work. So they dug into movement science to find the best ways that players move, and that resulted in some training tools and aids that are definitely not common.

“And some of these tools are designed to just have him subconsciously learn to nudge his body toward better movement without having to think about it so much,” Sullivan said.

Gilbert has tools that allows him to tighten his arm, he has a “connection ball” that he uses between his bicep and forearm to act as “a guide to the arm path that’s more efficient for him,” Sullivan said.

Many people have seen Gilbert utilize water bags, and Sullivan explained what that’s for, too.

“What we find is that when we use unpredictable loads instead of the traditional metal weights and cables and things like that, when the load is unpredictable, the body is forced to coordinate the movement and to stabilize in a much better way,” he said. “And we can simulate this high-speed action that you get in pitching with those kinds of devices when we use unpredictability as a load rather than weight. Because if you put weight on it, you can only move so fast, right? So when we use the unpredictability of the water in the thing to shake it around, the body has to learn to stabilize that. And we can put those in planes of motion and exercise experiences that mimic pitching movements more precisely and help him get a better return on his training time.”

Every year, Sullivan and the ARMory make Gilbert a plan of what exercises to do every day. After about a month, the plan changes, but only slightly.

“What we found is that when guys do the same thing every day for the whole season in preparation to throw, their body sort of accommodates to the stimulus and it gets boring and it doesn’t have the same effect anymore. So what Logan will do is every month or so he’ll call us and he’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ve been doing the same exercises for about a month now, do you guys have some other things I can do?’ So we know what the goal of the exercises was, now what we have to do is find different ways to get the same result using a different stimilus. And so that’s why it keeps that big bag of tricks in there. It’s for the variability in the training so his body doesn’t get stale of doing the same thing over and over and over again.”

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How did Gilbert’s unique work begin? His private pitching coach explains