Baseball players must be ready for any situation, even if that situation includes your opponents hitting the ball all the way to the outfield fence. When a scenario occurs that leaves the outfielder too far from a particular base, outfielders need to rely on the relay.
What is a relay in baseball? A relay is a type of play in baseball where an outfielder throws the ball to an infielder and that infielder has the intent of throwing out a runner at another base. The purpose of a relay is to be an extension of the outfielder’s throw and record an out.
The main takeaway from this definition is that the infielder is looking to record an out, which makes a relay man different than a cut-off man in baseball.
The Relay in Baseball Explained
The relay play is a very common play for outfielders, so it’s essential that outfielders understand what it is – especially those who are new to playing outfield.
What is a Relay in Baseball?
A relay play will typically occur whenever an outfielder is too far away from a base to make it in one throw. Relays can also occur when an outfielder needs to get the ball into the infield as quickly as possible, but does not yet have a target for where the ball should be thrown.
At its highest level, the relay occurs when an outfielder throws the ball to an infielder – typically a middle infielder – and that middle infielder directs the throw to another base and records an out.
This play is a lot easier said than done because of all the different areas a batter can hit the ball in the outfield, how fast the baserunners are, and how many runners are on base. All of these things need to be considered during the play in order for the relay man to effectively record an out.
Example of a Relay from Right Field to Third Base
As an example of how the relay works in baseball, imagine we have a scenario where there is a runner on first base and the batter gets a base hit to right field.
In this scenario, the baserunner on first will be very tempted to round second base and head towards third base. The baserunner knows they have the momentum on their side to naturally carry them towards third base and they know it is a pretty good distance from right field to third base so it will take longer for the throw to make it to third.
For this scenario, Major League outfielders would be able to effectively throw the ball from right field to third base, but for those who are not playing in the Major Leagues – using the relay is the best strategy available for getting that runner out.
To perform the relay throw, the right fielder first needs a relay man. An infielder – typically the second baseman in this scenario – will become the relay man and position themselves somewhere between the right fielder and third base.
The relay man also wants to make sure they are in-line with third base so if the ball was overthrown it would still end up at third base.
The distance the relay man chooses to be at depends on how well they know the strength of the right fielder’s arm, but typically the relay man will be somewhere in the middle of the right fielder and the third baseman.
As the infielder is busy getting into position to be the relay man, the outfielder fields the ball to begin the relay. The outfielder really has two things they need to do well to complete their part of the relay – field the ball and throw the ball.
Once the outfielder has cleanly fielded the ball, they need to make a good throw to their relay man. A good relay throw from the outfielder would be a throw that goes towards the glove-side of the relay man’s body and has a height of around the head area of the relay man.
Once those two things have occurred, the outfielder’s job is done! The next step is for the relay man to catch the ball and throw the ball to third.
This step can be easier said than done. In order for a relay man to be effective, they need to catch the ball while beginning to position their feet in a way that will allow them to throw the ball to third. If they can do both of these things simultaneously, they are in a perfect position to make a quick and accurate throw to third base.
Once the relay man has thrown the ball to third the last step is for the third baseman to catch the ball, apply the tag, and get the out!
Video Example of a Relay Throw
For a great example of a relay throw, check out the quick video below where Moises Sierra fielded the ball in right field, relayed the throw to Gordon Beckham, and got the out at third.
When watching, notice how well Gordon Beckham receives the throw from right field. Even though the throw is low, Beckham is still able to keep his feet moving to make sure he was in a perfect position to quickly throw the ball to third.
Relay vs Cutoff in Baseball
The relay and the cutoff are two things in baseball that get used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things.
What’s the difference between a relay and a cutoff in baseball? In baseball, a relay is a play where the infielder receives a ball from the outfielder and makes a throw to get a runner out. A cutoff in baseball is a play where an infielder receives the ball from the outfielder, but holds onto the ball in an effort to keep the play under control.
A cutoff man could make a throw to another base, but they are typically positioned in the infield with the purpose of holding onto the ball to prevent the runners from moving any further.
When an infielder cuts off a throw, it’s to prevent a bad throw from going any further or it’s because there is no play to be made.
What is Cut 2 in Baseball?
If you’ve been around a baseball game then you’ve definitely heard of phrases like “Cut 2” and “Cut 3”. The person on the field who is responsible for calling out these plays is the catcher because they have a complete view of the field.
What is ‘cut 2’ in baseball? When a player yells “Cut 2!” they are indicating a throw from the outfielder should be cut-off to its intended target and the player should throw the ball to second base. Therefore, “cut 2” is a short way of saying “cut-off the throw and throw it to second base”.
This is the same for all variations of the phrase “cut 2”. When catchers believe their team has a shot of getting an out at another base, the catcher can yell “cut 1”, “cut 2”, “cut 3”, or “cut 4” depending on where they believe their team can get an out.
If a catcher does not call for a cut then the infielders know they are still delivering the ball to where the outfielder was originally throwing it.