Baseball Relays and CutOffs

Infielders need to recognize situations for baseball relays and cutoffs, be quick to get into position, and know how to make the relay throw.

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This article discusses the best position possible for taking a throw from an outfielder as a cut off man – where to align yourself, and how to make the relay throw as quickly and accurately as possible.

Relay Basics

(These tips apply to double cuts as well).

    • Get Into Position.

      As a cut off man work to move your feet so the throw you are receiving comes in at chest height (its an easy height to handle). Try to play it to the left side of your chest and get your feet moving and inline to the direction you are going to throw. Turn to your glove side and throw (you create more momentum and have less movement). This ensures the quickest and strongest catch and release possible.

    • Throw Low.

      When throws are made in baseball relays and cutoffs, keep the ball down. This will allow for someone else to cut the ball if needed to hold a runner and it also gets your target quicker with a hop or two than sailing a high rainbow.

baseball tips and rules of thumb for relays and cutoffs

NY Yankee Doug Bernier, March 2011. Image by Ed Wolfstein.

  • Get in Line.

    It is important for the cut off men to be in a straight line from where the ball is being thrown from and where it is eventually going to go.

    The quickest path between two points is a straight line, also if the ball is overthrown the ball is going in the correct direction. (Check out our diagrams of baseball relays and cutoffs for more on positioning.)

  • Stay in Fair Territory,

    even if the throw is coming from an outfielder in foul territory.

    If coming down the left field line, this is important because you want your throw to home to be on the inside of the runner so it won’t hit him in the back. Remember, if your throw hits the runner, the ball is still live and the runner will be able to score.

    From the right field line, the throw coming from fair territory cuts down the angle that the catcher has to take his eyes away from the runner and catch the ball. The further the ball comes from foul territory the more the catcher has to angle his body away from the base and the runner.

Double Cuts

What is a Double Cut? When is it needed?  A double cut is a type of baseball relay.   Anytime a hitter hits an automatic double (a batted ball gets past the outfielder) protocol is to line up for the relay using two infielders – a lead and a trail guy.

Of the two infielders in position, the lead cut-off man is expecting to make the throw. The trail man standing 20 – 30 feet behind him, is ready to give direction and to act as backup in case the ball is overthrown.

Example: Double Cutoff to Home plate

Doug Bernier relays a throw from the left fielder Kevin Melillo to home plate. This is an example of a double cut relay, where the shortstop is the lead cut-off man and the second baseman is backing him up.

Important Rule of Thumb

The rule is to line up the throw 3 bases in front of where the runner starts. The double was automatic, but now you have to keep the hitter from turning his extra base into extra bases.

  • With bases empty, the play is at third.
  • If runner on 1st base, the relay will line up to home plate.

Don’t worry about runners at 2nd or 3rd base because they are scoring easily on a double.

Note: The hardest part of this play can be the trail man’s job, because he has to anticipate whether the play will be at second or third (or third or home).

For example, a baseball hit left of center field may require the second baseman to receive the throw at second base, or it might require him to vacate second base so he can act as the trail guy in the double cut. The instant he knows there will be no play at second, he must make his move. Sometimes this a difficult read to make when there are only split seconds to make a decision and get into position.

Hitting too many pop flies?  Too many weak ground balls?  Is your timing off?  This book of batting tee drills comes with a Personal Drill Helper chart, which recommends drills based on specific problems or goals for your swing, plus includes free video for each drill to ensure proper technique.

Setup for a Double Cut

There will be two infielders going to about the halfway point between the outfielder with the ball and the intended base (This changes with the strength of the arms in the outfield).  The two infielders will be in line with the base, and the lead guy is the intended cut off man. The trail guy will act as the security blanket in case the outfielder makes a bad throw to the lead cut off man

Lead Cut-Off Man

As the lead cut off man in a double cut, you are expecting to be the relay guy. 80% of the time, you will be the one intercepting the baseball and making the throw. However, if the throw from the outfielder is going to take a short hop or is high, let the ball go and the second baseman who is about 25-30 feet directly behind you will take the ball. That will be an easier play for him.

Trail Man

As the trail cut off man in a double cut, stay in line with everyone in the relay but stay about 20 – 30 feet behind the lead guy. Communicate with the lead guy telling him to line up left or right, to hold or throw, and to what base. Trail cut off men need to keep their head on a swivel in order to see the runners and the ball in case the lead guy lets the ball go and you have to complete the relay throw.

More about baseball relays and cutoffs, and other baseball tips:

  1. Positioning for Cut-offs and Relays
  2. Positioning for Double Cuts
  3. Infield Situational Positioning
  4. Pop Fly Priorities

About Author

Avatar für Doug Bernier

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball, 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

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