Rules for Pitchers in Baseball


In baseball, the pitcher controls the game. The play does not start until the pitcher begins his windup and delivers the baseball to home plate. Major League Baseball implemented a series of rules not only to guide pitching procedure, but also to ensure that the pitcher does not have any added advantages over a hitter. All of these rules were meant to create a level playing field and to ensure the safety of batters.

Pitching Motion

  • To create a fair match between hitters, base runners and pitchers, Major League Baseball has placed restrictions on pitching motions. The only two positions allowed for a pitcher are the set postion, also known as pitching from the stretch, and the windup position. In the windup position, a pitcher may take one step back and one step forward before releasing the ball, but once the pitcher starts a motion, it must be a natural movement without "interruption or altercation." The set position requires a pitcher to come to a complete stop before delivering the baseball. In the windup position, the pitcher must have two feet on the rubber before beginning the windup. In the set position, a pitcher must have one foot on the rubber.


  • When runners are on base, the pitcher may not perform certain actions. If the pitcher does perform an outlawed maneuver, the base runner gets one base. A balk occurs when a pitcher makes a natural motion to pitch the baseball but does not deliver the ball to home plate. The pitcher must throw to first base if he steps off the rubber toward first base to attempt a pickoff. Pitchers cannot throw or fake a throw to an unoccupied base. If no one is on base when a forbidden action occurs, the pitch is called a ball.

Illegal Contact or Substances

  • According to Major League Baseball's rulebook, no pitcher shall "bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber." The pitcher also may not touch the ball to his clothing or the outside of the pitcher's glove. The umpire would rule this an attempt to scuff the baseball. Pitchers cannot put a foreign substance on a ball at any time. All these actions can result in a pitch being called a ball. The umpire also can eject the pitcher from the game, and the pitcher may receive a hefty fine.

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