Pitching Tips For Relief Pitchers

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

As you progress into the higher levels of baseball, you will find that there are no longer just "pitchers". Each pitcher is given a role such as starter, reliever, or closer. The relief pitcher is often a role that is overlooked by fans, but is one of the most important roles on the team.

The relief pitcher typically will come into the game after the starting pitcher leaves. They will usually pitch no more than an inning or two, and sometimes might only face one batter. They are brought in to get a specific job done, and they are expected to do it.

Let's imagine a situation: There is one out, bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. The starting pitcher has just been pulled out of the game, and the manager has called on you to relieve him. What is your mindset going into this situation?

If you are thinking to yourself that you want to strike out the next two hitters, you may want to reconsider. However if you are telling yourself that you will throw one pitch and create a double play to end the inning, you are on the right track.

My very first Varsity pitching appearance game in a situation very similar to the one I just described. I was a Sophomore with no Varsity experience. My fastball was not overpowering to the Varsity hitters, and my junk was just average. I was thrown into this very tight spot in the ball game and was expected to get my team back into the dugout. What was I thinking to myself?

As I made the walk to the mound from the bullpen, a million thoughts were racing through my brain. However, I knew that my job was to get us out of this inning, and the best way to do it was to throw as few pitches as possible. The hitter came to the plate and I wound up and threw him a slider for the first pitch. He swung and hit a weak groundball to the second baseman. 4-6-3 double play, and the inning was over. I did my job as a reliever, and the coaches couldn't have been more pleased.

Understanding what your job is could be the most important thing to learn as a reliever. Once you understand how to approach the situation, you will be able to succeed as a relief pitcher.

 

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