Baseball Relief Pitcher

Relief Pitcher

Usually sometime between the fifth and seventh innings, the starting pitcher will become tired, and/or his pitching will not be as solid as it was earlier in the game. In other scenarios, the pitcher's place in the lineup was replaced with a pinch hitter, and once replaced with a pinch hitter, a player is not allowed to re-enter the game. In situations where the manager feels the starting pitcher should or needs to be taken out of the game, he will replace him with a relief pitcher/reliever.

Role and Responsibilities

The role of a relief pitcher is the same as any other pitcher; to stop the other team from scoring runs. Relief pitchers usually only pitch one or two innings except for cases when the team needs a long reliever. Since they pitch for short amounts of time it's especially important for pitchers to get batters out. Some pitchers specialize in throwing to only one batter. However, starting in 2020 pitchers are going to have to pitch to at least 3 batters.

Types of Relief Pitchers

Rarely just one reliever is used in a game. Relief pitchers tend to only pitch one or a few innings, and sometimes they do not even pitch an entire inning. Relievers tend to have specialized skills, such as throwing very fast pitches or throwing a specific kind of pitch. They also do not have as much stamina as starters, since they do not typically throw nearly as many innings as starters. Therefore, relievers are often replaced when they get tired, or when another pitcher's special skill is needed.

Left-Handed Specialists

Left-handed specialists, also called lefty specialists, are another type of relief pitcher. They are left-handed pitchers who specialize in throwing to left-handed batters or weak right-handed batters (often switch hitters who are naturally left-handed).

Since it is harder for batters to hit pitches thrown by a pitcher with the same dominant hand, lefty specialists are useful in putting these batters out. Lefty specialists often only pitch to one or two batters in specific situations where a left-handed batter must be put out.

Setup Pitchers

The setup pitcher is the relief pitcher who sets up, or pitches directly before, the closer so he can successfully end the game.

The setup pitcher is often the team's second best relief pitcher, and he usually pitches the eighth inning, ensuring that his team's lead is kept so the closer can finish the game off. Unlike the closer, the setup pitcher is commonly used in games that are tied or that the team is losing.


A closer is a special type of reliever; he is often the team's best relief pitcher. The closer is specifically in charge of getting the final outs of the game.

He usually only pitches one inning, the last inning, and only if his team is in the lead. This is to preserve his strength and energy; managers don't want their closers tiring themselves out on a game the team might lose, when it is better strategy to use the closer to solidify a probable win.

Relief Pitcher Equipment

Pitching is the position on the baseball field with the least amount of equipment needed. All you need to become a relief pitcher is a glove. However, there are things you can buy to help train. Weighted balls, resistance bands, and pitching nets are all good tools to help relief pitchers train. If you're becoming a relief pitcher you will also want to invest in a jacket because you will be sitting and waiting for a lot of the game.

Relief Pitcher History

Relief pitchers are a relatively new phenomenon in baseball; they began picking up prominence and significance in Major League Baseball around the 1970s and 1980s. Before then, it was common for starting pitchers to pitch most, if not all, of the game. The rise in relievers was partly due to the fact that batters gradually became better at hitting fast pitches, so pitchers had to learn to increase the speed of their pitches. Since throwing faster pitches is more tiring, starting pitchers had less stamina to last the entire game, and relievers' roles grew.

Relief Pitcher Statistics

Relief pitching statistics are similar to any pitcher statistics. However, wins and losses are less important for relief pitchers because they usually don't qualify for those. For relief pitchers, Earned Run Average (ERA), Strikeouts (K's) and Walks + Hits + Innings Pitched (WHIP) are the statistics that are most used. To be a good relief pitcher you want to have a lot of strikeouts and you want a very low ERA.

Relief Pitcher Skills and Techniques

Relief pitching isn't all that different than any other kind of pitching. The most important skills are the ability to throw hard and to throw with command. Relief pitchers have some special skills they need. The most important part of being a relief pitcher is being calm under pressure. A lot of times as a relief pitcher you will be called in to pitch with runners on or to close a game out. You need to be ready to jump into a pressure situation to get people out.

Hall of Fame Relief Pitchers

The following lists some of the most famous relief pitchers of all time in baseball that have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mariano RiveraNew York Yankees
Hoyt WilhelmNew York Mets
Dennis EckersleyOakland A's
Trevor HoffmanSan Diego Padres

Top MLB Relief Pitchers

The following lists some of the top relief pitchers in Major League Baseball by team:

Arodlis ChapmanNew York Yankees
Josh HaderMilwaukee Brewers
Kirby YatesSan Diego Padres
Brad HandCleveland Indians


What is a relief pitcher in baseball?

A relief pitcher in baseball is a pitcher who comes in later in a game, after the starting pitcher is too tired to continue. Relief pitchers have become more commonly used in recent years and are extremely important to a baseball team.

What does a relief pitcher do in baseball?

A relief pitcher in baseball comes in when the coach calls them in. Their job is to get people out and help their team win.

What are the types of relief pitchers in baseball?

There are a few types of relief pitchers. Long relievers throw for a lot of innings. Middle relievers will pitch one or two innings. Set up pitchers usually pitch the eight inning and closers usually finish the game. Lefty specialists are pitchers who only throw to one batter, a left-handed batter, but starting in 2020 this will no longer be allowed.