Baseball Bullpen

Baseball Bullpen

No doubt, at some point in your life, you’ve heard the term “bullpen.” This baseball term is part of our language, and it is used so often that many people may not even know what it refers to. So, what is the bullpen in baseball? Why is it called a bullpen? What is its function and location? Below, you can find out, as we take a look at the definition, history, and purpose of the bullpen.

What Is the Bullpen?

In baseball, the bullpen is the area where relief pitchers warm up before they enter the game. The bullpen contains seating for the relievers as well as two sets of pitching rubbers and plates set at regulation distance.

When the manager notifies a relief pitcher that they will soon enter the game, the pitcher stands on the rubber and makes several warm-up pitches to get their arm loose. After a pitcher enters the game, they sit in the dugout during their team’s batting half-inning, rather than returning to the bullpen.

Bullpen Location

In most MLB ballparks, the bullpens are located behind the outfield fence and out of play. The bullpen is separate from the dugout, where the manager and the rest of the team sits when they are not on the field. The manager communicates with the bullpen by using a direct phone line wired into the dugout. Although some parks still have bullpens located in foul territory, most are now located entirely outside of this area, out of concern for fielder safety.

Bullpen Purpose

The purpose of the bullpen is to serve as a dedicated warmup area for pitchers, who are arguably the most important defensive players on a baseball team. Just as batters have the on-deck circles to practice before their at-bats, pitchers must have the ability to warm up before subbing into a game. However, because pitching practice requires a lot of space that swinging a bat does not, the bullpen becomes necessary. Therefore, the pitchers are given a dedicated area off of the field that provides them with ample space to practice throws without interrupting the ongoing game.

Where Does the Name “Bullpen” Come From?

The origin of the name “bullpen” in baseball is disputed, and there are a number of stories about how it came about. One story states that the name is a reference to the pen where rodeo bulls are kept before being released into the arena. Others suggest that the bullpen was once a place where fans were “herded like cattle” to watch games with standing room only.

Others state that the name comes from the large Bull Durham Tobacco ads that used to stand where relief pitchers warmed up. Famed New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants) announcer Jon Miller claims that the name came from an actual pen of bulls that used to exist beside the area where pitchers warmed up.

Bullpen Rules

  • When a manager gestures or motions toward the bullpen, it is officially considered a request for a pitcher substitution.
  • The designated hitter may not sit in the bullpen unless they are serving as a bullpen catcher.
  • Fielders have the right-of-way when catching a ball batted into the bullpen. Pitchers must get out of the way and allow fielders to play the ball.


What is the bullpen in baseball?

The bullpen in baseball is the area slightly off-field where relief pitchers warm up prior to entering a baseball game. The term “bullpen” is also occasionally used to refer to the entire roster of pitchers on a baseball team. Pitchers will often wait in the bullpen rather than in the dugout with their teammates, until they are subbed into the game, and they use their time in the bullpen to practice pitching.

Who uses the bullpen in baseball?

The bullpen is used by relief pitchers. The enclosed area off of the field is a place where pitchers can easily warm up and practice throws during a game, in anticipation of potentially being called up to replace a lagging starter or pitcher. The use of the bullpen by relief pitchers has become such a traditional sight in baseball that the phrase “in the bullpen” is often used to refer to other, non-baseball scenarios in which a person is preparing to step in for someone else.