In baseball, a player who takes the place of the starting pitcher at some point during the game. Most Major League Baseball teams typically have about 6 or 7 relievers on their roster to complement the usual rotation of 5 starting pitchers.

During games relievers sit apart from the rest of the team in an area of the ballpark called the bullpen. When the manager removes the starting pitcher, the reliever is called in from the bullpen and is allowed to take eight warm up throws and then the game continues. If the starter was removed from the game because of an injury the reliever is allowed unlimited warm up throws, at the home plate umpire's discretion.

In the good old days relievers were simply pitchers not good enough to be starters. Starters were expected to pitch the entire game, thus bringing in relievers was something managers tried to avoid.

With the advent of the save rule in the late 1960s, relief pitching became a more legitimate position. By the 1970s relievers had already been subdivided into separate disciplines:

  • Long Relievers: Those who could generally pitch at least 2 effective innings if the starter stumbled relatively early in the game. In case of injury to a starting pitcher, long relievers can be expected to start in his place.
  • Setup Men: Generally pitch the 8th and occasionally the 7th innings.
  • Closers: Generally strikeout artists who pitch the 9th inning when his team is ahead. Closers are the most well-known relievers and for whatever reason often the biggest characters as well. See John Rocker, Mitch Williams, Rob Dibble and Eric Gagne.

The fact that the art of relief pitching only recently came into respect is shown in the fact that currently only five relievers have been elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersely, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage.

Other potential Hall of Fame relievers:

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