Signaling and Executing Baseball Pitchouts

By Dan O'Connell •  Updated: 06/05/18 •  5 min read

Steps for proper pitchouts:

1. Signal from Coach
2. Sign to Pitcher and Fielders from Catcher
3. Middle infielder covering base cheats toward base.
4. Catcher sets up on outside part of plate to get closer to pitchout location.
5. Pitcher delivers pitchout with slidestep delivery
6. Catcher moves to receive ball and throw to base.
7. Middle infielder receives ball and applies tag.
8. First baseman stays at bag in case player returns or doesn’t run and can be picked off.

It’s a fairly simple play in baseball, but like anything, if not executed properly it can cause problems. We’re talking about a pitchout. A play where the defensive team decides to make a pitch that the batter doesn’t swing at and that also gives the catcher a much better chance at throwing out a potential base stealer. Proper execution and communication are the keys to a successful pitchout and pickoff play. Here’s a look at the players involved, what their roles are and how to make it all work.

The Pitchout Signal

Normally, the coach will provide the pitchout signal from the dugout which he relays to the catcher. In turn, the catcher will signal all of the infielders that a pitchout play is on and will then get some type of acknowledgement that they received the sign ( touch cap or other visible sign). If a player doesn’t acknowledge, the catcher may look back to the dugout to see if the coach still wants to proceed.


The pitcher is essential to the success of the pitchout. First, he should attempt to keep the runner as close to the base as possible, making the steal attempt tougher. Then, they need to deliver the pitchout so that the batter doesn’t swing but also so the catcher receives it in a great position to throw. That means the pitch should be at least 4 – 6 inches off the plate and about chest high in the catchers normal standing position.

The pitch should also be delivered just like any other pitch they throw. Pitchers should not be trying to aim the ball or change their delivery since that could turn into a wild throw. Pitchers may, however, use a little less leg kick and more of a slide step so as to reduce their delivery time when executing a pitchout.

First Baseman

Of course, the first baseman will normally be holding the runner on the bag, even in a non pitchout situation. But when they know a pitchout play is on, they will most likely maintain their position on the bag even after the pitch is thrown rather than moving into fielding position. That way, if the runner doesn’t go, the catcher can make a snap throwback to first to try and catch the runner.

Middle Infielders

Covering the base becomes the priority for a middle infielder on a pitchout play. Assuming that the runner could be stealing, they need to make sure they know which player will cover the bag. The sooner they get to the bag to receive the throw, the better the odds are that they can receive the throw and have time to make a good tag.


If the pitcher is the most important player in a successful pitchout play, the catcher is not far behind. Assuming that the pitcher makes a good pitchout, it’s now up to the catcher to not only catch it, but get themselves in the best position to make the throw. It starts with the catcher usually setting up on the outside part of the plate. That way the pitcher at least has a target on that side of the plate to throw to. The catcher will also need to move up and over to receive the ball so that they are in the best position to throw. However, they need to be careful they don’t pop up too quickly and give the play away. The best time to begin moving up and over is just as the pitcher releases the ball.

The catcher should try to be coming forward a bit as they receive the ball. This will give them a little momentum into the throw. From there, they should work on making a strong and straight throw just as they would in any other situation, with accuracy being one of the keys.

Practice Makes Perfect

The pitchout is a play that requires practice to get right and make it successful. From the signal, to the pitchout, to the throw, each player needs to execute their piece of the play for it to work. Coaches who want to incorporate a pitchout play to their team should spend some time practicing it. If they do, the chances of executing this play properly are sure to increase.

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Dan O'Connell