Last updated on October 26th, 2023 at 09:08 am
A bullpen in baseball is an area where the relief pitchers warm up, stretch, go over pitching strategy, and more before entering a game. Usually, the bullpen is out behind the outfield walls, but a few Major League Baseball stadiums have theirs in foul territory. In this area, you have the bullpen coach, the relief pitchers, and backup catchers ready to warm up the pitcher to enter the baseball game whenever their team requires them.
So, where did the name come from exactly? Where can fans typically find the bullpen at most MLB venues? What does a relief pitcher do? What does it mean to throw a bullpen session?
Here is the complete guide to what a bullpen is in baseball.
Why is it Called a Bullpen in Baseball?
There are various reasons why people call it a “bullpen” in baseball. To start, the concept of a pen in rodeo has extra bulls waiting in this area until they are ready to enter the action. Since this area resembles that of a rodeo, the name stuck with fans and players.
Another reason why this area is called a bullpen deals with the Bull Durham tobacco ads that were out in the outfield fence at baseball stadiums. Since these ads were so close to where the pitchers were warming up, it became known as the bullpen area.
Where are Bullpens at Most MLB Stadiums?
In most Major League Baseball stadiums, the bullpen is behind the outfield wall. Some stadiums, like the New Yankee Stadium, will have one bullpen out in left-center while the other is in right-center. Other ballparks, like Citizens Bank Field, will stack the bullpens in the same spot. Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play, have pine trees in their bullpen area to give it a different look from other places.
However, there are some MLB stadiums where the bullpen is in foul territory and on the baseball field. For example, Tropicana Field, Oakland’s ballpark, Wrigley Field, and Oracle Park have their bullpens on each side of the field directly in front of the first row of seats. Being on either side of the field means that these players must be alert to watch out for foul balls and not interfere with any play with the ball or defender.
Why Do Pitchers Need to Warm up Before Entering a Game in the Bullpen?
During a game, you might see some relief pitchers sitting on the bench or doing light stretching here and there. However, when the phone rings and the bullpen coach tells them which player to get ready, they must warm up. Going from not throwing to throwing the ball in the 90s can cause severe strain to a pitcher’s arm, so players begin to warm up with light tosses in the bullpen and work their way up till they are ready to enter the game.
Also, warming up before entering the game helps shake off the rust from sitting in the bullpen for an hour or two. Especially if the game goes into extra innings, the pitcher could sit on the bench for over three hours. Giving them time to warm up will be crucial since you don’t want a player to enter the game cold and be unprepared to pitch effectively.
If a pitcher does not warm up before entering the game, their pitches might not be as accurate or as sharp as they would like, which could lead to more runs for the opposing team. Also, the chance of an injury dramatically increases when you don’t warm up before entering the game.
What Does it Mean to Throw a Bullpen?
Throwing a bullpen session means a pitcher is working on their pitches with the help of the pitching coach in the bullpen area. The idea behind throwing a bullpen session is to work on different pitch types and build up arm strength (especially coming off an injury). Also, starting pitchers will have a 10-15 minute bullpen session between their starts to keep their arms loose, especially if there are off days in the calendar.
How Many Pitchers Can Throw at Once in a Bullpen?
Every bullpen in Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball allows up to two pitchers to throw simultaneously. It doesn’t matter if both are left-handed pitchers, right-handed pitchers, or one of each. There will be two catchers in the bullpen who can catch any reliever who needs to warm up during a game.
Conclusion: What is a Bullpen in Baseball?
In summary, a bullpen in baseball is an area where the relief pitchers hang out, stretch, and warm up before entering a game. You typically find the bullpens out behind the outfield walls. However, some MLB venues have the bullpen out in foul territory on the field, like Wrigley Field, which means fans can easily see them getting ready before entering the game.
Greg Kristan, owner of The Stadium Reviews, LLC and TM Blast, LLC, brings his extensive experience visiting over half of the MLB ballparks, along with numerous MLS, NHL, NBA, and NFL venues, to provide in-depth coverage on the bag policy, food options, and parking. He has also been interviewed about his experiences on several sports podcasts.