MLB Two-Way Player Rules
In Major League Baseball (MLB), players are usually either deemed a pitcher or a position player. Pitchers will stick to pitching, while position players will play the field and do the hitting. There are extremely rare instances, however, where a player can be both a position player and a pitcher. Read on to learn about these “two-way players,” as well as the criteria for being named one, in greater detail.
Officially, a two-way player is a player who is on the team’s roster as both a pitcher and a position player. Additionally, they do not count towards the team’s pitching total, as a team is limited to just 13 pitchers on their 26 man roster (14 on their 28 man roster when rosters expand each year on September 1st).
In order to be designated as a two-way player, a player must have both pitched 20 innings in the majors and played at least 20 MLB games as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances per game in those 20 games. These criteria can be filled from either the current season or the previous seasons.
The rule has been in place since the 2020 season, and its purpose was to limit players who were not real pitchers from pitching in games, something MLB felt was happening too often prior to the rule being put in place.
Two-way players are extremely rare in the MLB. Below is a list of a few players who have been considered two-way players during their careers. The vast majority of them played in the early 20th century, with the only notable player playing today being superstar Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels.
- Shohei Ohtani (2018-present)
- Babe Ruth (1914-1935)
- Bullet Rogan (1920-1938)
- Bucky Walters (1931-1950)
- Joe Wood (1908-1922)
- Martin Dihigo (1923-1945)
- Leon Day (1934-1946)
- Bob Smith (1923-1937)
- Ted Radcliffe (1928-1946)
While current superstar Shohei Ohtani is the person everyone thinks of when it comes to two-way players, this rule was actually not designed with him in mind. The main purpose of this rule was to designate pitchers and position players on rosters to determine who could pitch in games and who needed special circumstances.
Prior to 2020, when this rule was implemented, the MLB felt that position players pitching in a game to save real pitchers arms was becoming too commonplace. Now, with the official designations, position players could only pitch in extra innings or if their team was winning or losing by at least six runs. This way, there will be less instances of managers using pitching players in games to save pitchers arms.
Below is a list of helpful resources if you are interested in learning more about either the two-way player rule specifically, or just two-way players in general:
Similar Rules to Two-Way Player Rules
- Designated Hitter Rule
- Three Batter Minimum Rule
- Ambidextrous Pitcher Rule
What is a two-way player in baseball?
A two-way player in baseball is a player who can be used as both a pitcher and a position player. They do not count towards the thirteen player maximum requirement for pitchers on a roster. A player can be deemed a two-way player if they have pitched at least twenty innings in the MLB and appeared in twenty games as a position player with three plate appearances per game. The only notable two-way player in the MLB today is Shohei Ohtani.