- Starting pitcher – the pitcher who pitches from the beginning of the game; traditionally, the goal has been for a starting pitcher to throw all 9 innings, but changes in pitcher use patterns during the 21st century have made 6-7 a more common hallmark for starter durability.
- Long reliever – this pitcher comes in to relieve when the starter leaves early in the game; a long reliever will often pitch two or more innings, and a manager may need to call on multiple long relievers in one contest if the score gets out of hand or if the starter leaves after just an inning or two.
- Mop-up reliever – this pitcher comes in late in a game to finish up when the score is lopsided in either direction; the traditional connotation, though, has been that this pitcher comes in to clean up, or “mop” up, after his team has made a mess of the game.
- Closer – this is the lockdown ace of the relief corps, the pitcher most often charged with protecting a small lead in the late innings; in the 21st century, most closers only work the ninth inning of one- or two-run games, but some are used for longer stretches or in other situations.
- Setup reliever – the setup man is usually another sure thing in the manager’s mind, and it’s his job to bridge the gap between a starter or long reliever and the closer; often, a setup man will work just eighth inning, though some will work a couple of innings leading up to the closer.
Did you know? Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera was one of the greatest setup men of all-time before he became the New York Yankees’ closer. Sort of like the all-mound version of Babe Ruth!