Pitchers Defense Covering First Base
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
One of the most crucial plays a pitcher must make is a ground ball hit to the right side in which he must cover first base. This play requires the pitcher to be quick, athletic, agile, and smart. It also demands a lot of communication between him and the first baseman. When making this play, there are a few things to keep in mind.
When a ball is hit to the right side, it should be the pitcher’s instinct to start running towards first base. If the second baseman fields the ground ball, the first baseman should have time to get back and cover the base. However if the first baseman fields the ball, there is a good chance the pitcher will need to cover the base and receive the throw.
If this is the case, the pitcher’s first move should be towards the foul line. He wants to get in a good position so as to run directly up the foul line towards first base, and the best way to do this is to get over to the line right away. Once at the line, the pitcher should run towards first base anticipating the first baseman’s throw.
As he approaches the base, the pitcher wants to make good eye contact with the first baseman. This is where communication comes into effect. If the first baseman fields the ball close enough to the base, he may call the pitcher off and make the play himself. If however he is far off the base, the pitcher needs to be prepared for the toss.
As the pitcher approaches the base, he needs to slow down to be in control. Ideally, he times the first baseman’s throw to come to him a step before he reaches the base. However, if he reaches the base before the throw, he needs to break down and receive the ball like a first baseman.
Once the pitcher receives the throw, he needs to get out of the way. He should peel out towards the field of play in order to avoid a collision with the base runner. This is why getting to the foul line right away is so crucial. Taking a bad angle towards the base can lead the pitcher across the runner’s path and cause a collision. Taking the proper angle will avoid this situation.
This play can be dangerous to the pitcher if done incorrectly. As previously mentioned, taking a bad angle can lead to a collision. Another point to keep in mind is foot placement on the base. When the pitcher steps on the base, it is important not to step on the middle of the base. Doing this may cause the runner to step on his foot, possibly injuring both of them. The pitcher should step on the inside edge of the base and peel off towards the infield right away.
This is one of the tougher plays in baseball, and it must be practiced in order to be executed properly in a game situation. It happens very fast, and it must be second nature to the pitcher and first basemen. Take some time out of practice and work on this play. It should be an easy out every time if each player knows what they are doing.
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