Even though Monday looked more like winter than spring, it was opening day nevertheless for high school baseball and softball pitchers and catchers in gymnasiums around the state.

Players at those positions get a week’s head start on their teammates to get their arms in shape for the season. Baseball teams are allowed eight pitchers and two catchers. Softball teams are allowed any combination of 10.

At Scarborough, new Red Storm baseball coach Mike Coutts gathered his players at halfcourt and outlined the practice schedule. Coutts emphasized the importance of players telling the coaching staff if their arms are bothering them.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that. Building up arm strength is the goal.

“This week helps us to see where the kids are at,” said Coutts, Deering’s head coach the previous two seasons.

“Some kids have been throwing during the winter, some haven’t. It’s a chance to get the pitchers and catchers together and talk about what we want to accomplish. We’re setting the tone for the season and how we want to approach it.”

Along with a new team, Coutts welcomed three new assistants.

“We’ve had some meetings, but the first practice is a new situation. We have to get used to one another. I’m excited — new season, new kids and new challenges.”

Coutts, who coached Deering to a state title in 2009, left the Rams after last season to become the Scarborough coach. He said it was a natural move since he lives in Scarborough. Former Scarborough coach Jim Cronin is now an assistant at St. Joseph’s College.

Scarborough opened with stretching and agility drills. The Red Storm followed with short tosses, then longer ones and even a test with pencil and paper to sharpen concentration. Later, the team did fielding drills while four pitchers were limited to 15 pitches off two, wooden mounds. Coutts said they’ll build up the number of pitches during the week.

“My goal is to make sure my arm gets loose,” said senior righthander Ryan Mancini. “My arm feels pretty loose, but I want to take it slow, work on my mechanics and hit my spots.”

A year ago, Mancini’s right wrist was in a cast after surgery. He couldn’t pitch for the Red Storm, but he had a strong summer pitching for Libby-Mitchell in American Legion ball.

“I was really surprised at how well I threw last summer,” he said.

The Red Storm hopes Mancini continues his progress to form a strong pitching staff with juniors Ben Wessel, Joe Cronin and others.

Cronin, the starting shortstop when he’s not pitching, said he looked forward to Monday’s opening workout.

“It’s the first time with Coach Coutts in a baseball situation,” said Cronin. “It’s good to work with the catchers and get the season started.”

At Portland High’s gym, softball coach Dee Regan, in her third season, said she was looking forward to developing three freshmen pitchers who show promise.

“It’s exciting to see them start throwing,” she said. “It’s going to be fun working with them. The goal is to get their arms loose and thinking about the game.”

Regan said she sees a lot of positives even though the Bulldogs will be young. They went 1-15 last season but Regan felt they could have won six or seven games if not for mental errors.

Baseball and softball full squads begin practice next Monday with the first couple of days devoted to tryouts. Outdoor track, tennis and lacrosse teams open practices next Monday.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]