The primary purpose of a pitcher is to pitch the baseball effectively. However, once the ball is put into play, the pitcher will have defensive responsibilities as a fielder. Let’s take a look at some Little League Coaching Tips for Situational Responsibilities of the Pitcher.
#1 Runner on First
The pitcher has two options if the ball is hit to them with a runner on first base. The pitcher can either throw it to second base or they can throw it to first base. However, where they throw it will depend on the number of outs. With less than two outs, the pitcher will want to start a double play by throwing to second base. This can be a very difficult play at the Little League level because it involves the infielder getting to the base on time and the pitcher making a good throw ( which is sometimes even difficult for big league pitchers). I must admit that during my coaching days I would sometimes instruct my pitcher to take the easier out at first base even with less than two outs.
#2 Runners on First & Second
With less than two outs, the pitcher should always be taking the force out at third base unless there is an unusual circumstance ( like a bobble or the batted ball takes the pitcher towards the opposite side of the field in which case a throw to second or first might be a higher percentage play).
#3 Runners on First & Third
With runners on first and third base and less than two outs, the pitcher will want to at least look the runner back who is on third before throwing to second or first base. If the runner on third is the winning run, then the pitcher may even want to just hold the ball rather than chance the winning run scoring by a throwing error. This will really depend on the difficulty level of that play.
#4 Runners on Second & Third
With runners on second and third base and less than two outs, the pitcher(again) will want to at least look the runner back who is on third base before making a throw to first base.If the runner on third is the winning run, then the pitcher (again) may even want to just hold the ball rather than chance the winning run scoring by a throwing error. This will really depend on the difficulty level of that play.
#5 Runner on Second
With a runner on second and less than two outs, the pitcher will want to look the runner back to second base before throwing to first base. This may give the first baseman a chance at throwing the runner out at third after making the force play. In some cases the look back can actually prevent the runner from advancing.
#6 Runner on Third
With a runner on third base and less than two outs, the pitcher will want to at least look the runner back before throwing over to first base. Again, if the runner on third is the winning run then the pitcher must do everything they can to not let the run score which includes possibly having to hold onto the baseball.
#7 Bases Loaded
With less than two outs, the pitcher should throw home unless there is some type of unusual circumstance. With two outs, the pitcher should still throw home but could elect to throw over to first base for the final out. Both are high percentage plays but if the play is not made at first base for some reason then the run will score easily.
#8 Pop Up on the Pitcher’s Mound
In MLB, pitchers rarely call for the pop up and usually allow one of the infielders to take it for them. This is because most pitchers are not great fielders. At the Little League level, a team’s best athletes might be the pitchers( who also play other positions). With that said, the pitcher will still need to communicate that they are going to take the pop or they are going to need help.
#9 Hits to the Outfield & Plays at the Plate
The pitcher will back up the catcher on all plays going to the plate from the outfield. On all other plays coming from the outfield, the pitcher will want to be useful by anticipating bad throws that miss their mark. For example, the pitcher could position themselves near the third base dug out on a throw coming from the center fielder to third base. If the throw is off its mark then the pitcher is there to intercept it before it ends up in the dugout or rolling around in “no man’s land”.
#10 Passed Balls & Wild Pitches
With a runner on third base, the pitcher will have to cover home plate if there is a passed ball or wild pitch. The pitcher will have to be ready to take a throw ( usually an under hand throw) from the catcher and apply a tag to the incoming runner.
The pitcher will have a number of responsibilities other than just pitching the baseball. The most important concept that a pitcher can learn about the position is that once the ball is in play they become infielders with situational responsibilities.