1st baseman’s role and positioning for relays, cut-offs, and double cuts.

The first baseman is not the cut-off man in as many relay situations as the shortstop and second baseman. As the first baseman, you need to know when you should expect to cover the vacated second base bag, when to be in place for a relay, and when to back up a double cut. You may want to read about the basics of relays and cut-offs before proceeding with the specific scenarios on this page.  Also, click here if you are wondering “What are the numbers for baseball positions?”

1. Plays at Home Plate: Relay from right field.

cut offs and relays for baseball positioning

The first baseman is the cut-off man for plays at the plate from right field. When a ball is hit to the right fielder, run toward the catcher and get into position as quick as possible.
You want to be in a direct line from the outfielder to the catcher.

Be about 40 feet in front of the catcher and put your hands up. From this position you can see everything in front of you, so if you need to cut the ball and make a play at 2nd or 3rd, you can. It is easier to have to go toward the baseball then to retreat, that is why this starting spot may seem a little close to the catcher.

Important Note: If a play is developing at home plate and you cut the ball, you will have no shot at the runner coming home. Only cut if you have no play at home or you are going to make a play at another bag.

2. Plays at Home Plate: Relay from Center Field.


Baseball positioning for cutoffs and relaysAll the same applies from right field as it does center except where you position yourself. You want to be on the second base side of the pitchers mound. This will ensure that the mound will not get in your way on a short hop or if you cut the ball and make a throw. Be right at the base of the mound and let the situation dictate what your next move is.

A variation of the cut off to home plate

Most teams will use this cut off method. However a new trend that a few MLB teams are starting to trend towards is that the 3rd baseman will take cut off throws from the center fielder.

The idea behind this rotation is, if there is no possible play at 3rd base (no runner at 1st base) than the 3rd baseman will be the cut off man on a ball to the centerfielder. This is so the 1st baseman can stay at his bag and if the ball is cut off, there may be a play at 1st base if the hitter takes a large turn around the 1st base bag.

The 1st and 3rd baseman need to be in constant communication because if there is no runner at 1st, the 3rd baseman will be the cut off man on a ball hit to center.

If there is a runner at 1st and 2nd or bases loaded, than the first baseman will be the cut off man.

It can get a little confusing because most people were taught the other way.

Also in the traditional way of taking cut off throws to home plate, the second baseman should be covering first base, so if the first baseman wanted to cut the ball and get the hitter making to big of a turn around 1st base, he can.

The biggest reason I don’t entirely like this method is that when the ball is hit to center field, as the third baseman tries to get in the cut off position the runner coming around 2nd will tend to get in the way of your path. This will prevent you from getting to your spot on time.

3. Double Cuts

Relays for First Basemen: Diagram of positioning for a double cut from right field line. Play is at Home plate

Double cut, throw from right fielder, play at home plate

If you are the trail man in a double cut situationon a ball down the right field line, give the lead guy some room. Some teams do it differently, but a good rule of thumb is to stay 20 – 30 feet behind him.

It is your responsibility to make sure he is properly lined up to whichever base the throw is going to go. Talk to him and be his eyes, but remember not to be too close.
You need to get all the throws he can’t get to – high throw or low throw. Be ready in case the lead cut off man lets it go and you have to make a throw.

4. Automatic Double, Covering 2nd base.

On a ball that is an automatic double (gets past the outfielder), both of the middle infielders will be going out for a double cut and you will be covering 2nd base.

Anytime both middle infielders vacate the second base on a double cut, you should follow the runner to second base. Don’t beat the runner there, just be ready to make the out if he takes a big turn around the baseline and then tries to come back to 2nd.

The exception to this rule is an automatic double down the right field line. If this happens, and the play is at home (meaning there was a runner on 1st when the double was hit), then you will be the trail man in a double cut to home. If there was no runner on 1st, then the play is at 3rd base and you may or may not be the trail guy for the double cut to third. Teams differ on their preference for this scenario, so you’ll either be the trail guy or you’re expected to cover 2nd.

How to Cover 2nd Base

    1. Once the ball goes into the outfield, your first move is to get into the infield grass. This will get you out of the runner’s way.
    2. After he passes you follow the runner the 2nd base.
    3. If he takes a big turn around 2nd, one of the middle infielders can throw you the ball for a quick out.

Again, don’t beat the runner to 2nd base, just follow him and watch for a throw.

More Free Instruction for First Basemen:

About Author

Avatar für Doug Bernier

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies


  1. Avatar für D.J. Eder

    Yes. It just occurred in tonight’s St. Louis – San Diego game. San Diego runners on 1st and 3rd, one out. Sharp single to right center. Cardinals first base man did not assume control of center of infield. Pitcher went midway behind home and 3rd. Outfielder threw to 3rd trying to get incoming runner and hit sliding runner. Ball careens to wall near dugout. Catcher, pitcher, 3rd baseman all go after the ball. Home was entirely unprotected because 1st baseman did not cover center of diamond and couldn’t retreat to cover home when catcher left. SanDiego scored easy run.

  2. Avatar für Dylan

    hi there. I am a little league head coach and I am in a bit of an argument/discussion with one of my assistant coaches. Hoping you can help settle it. Is there ever a situation where the 1st baseman should back up the catcher at home plate? Thanks for your help.

    • Avatar für Shaun

      It is the pitchers job to back up the plate. The 2 situations that may be exceptions are rundowns between 3rd and plate, and pass balls with runner coming in to score where 1b can back up throw to pitcher.

    • Avatar für John F Miller
      John F Miller on

      This is the play when you use your pitcher (probably your best all around athlete) as the universal cutoff man. If there is a play your pitcher has the arm to make the throw. If not, little league rules generally stop runners at the next base once the pitcher has the ball. If you play this way, 1b backs up the plate.

  3. Avatar für Don Ervin

    Hey, Doug.
    Your information on 1st baseman’s coverage is great, I brought up their coverage down the third base side to a high school first baseman during one of our fall ball games recently and he had no idea that he had a play past his side of the mound, as Buck Show Walter stated in a recent interview, When the ball is put into play each and every player on the defensive side of the ball has a place to go to either make the play or to back up the person making the play.
    Great Base Ball-N
    Don Ervin

      • Avatar für Tony

        Doug, just a quick question. If there is a ball hit to the first baseman and the first baseman bobbles the ball but has plenty of time to make a play at first and the runner is safe at first, but, the pitcher does not cover first is that considered a base hit?

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