Baseball Rules for the Number of Players

To some, baseball seems so simple because each team gets to put nine players in the field to play defense. But there is more to the sport than just the number of players who take the field. Each team has roster limitations and this impacts the number of pitchers that each team carries. American League (NL) and National Leagues (NL) teams use different lineups because AL teams use the designated hitter.

The Lineup

All baseball teams use nine players in the fieldt play an official game. However, the same players in the field do not come to bat in American League games. The AL uses a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher. The designated hitter only bats and does not play the field. This has been the case since the start of the 1973 season. National League teams do not use the designated hitter and that means the pitcher bats. In interleague games played in American League cities, the designated hitter is used, while pitchers bat in interleague games played in National League cities.

Roster Size

All major league teams can carry 25 players on their roster once the season starts. During spring training and the off-season, teams carry 40 players on their roster. On Sept. 1, teams are also allowed to carry 40 players on the roster. However, once the postseason play starts, all teams can only carry 25 players again.

Use of Players in Game

There is no maximum to the number of players that may be used in any one game. A manager can choose to use all 25 players on his roster if needed. However, no player may go back in the game once he has been removed or replaced. If the designated hitter is replace by a pinch-hitter or pinch runner, the designated hitter may not come back into the game.

About this Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.