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Oberg aims to carry stellar finish into '18

Rockies righty pitched to 2.03 ERA in final month last season
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies believe the career and 2017 stats don't define right-handed relief pitcher Scott Oberg as much as illustrate a journey.

Oberg, who turns 28 next week, enters 2018 with a 5.05 ERA in 154 games over three seasons between Triple-A and the Majors. He went 0-1 with a 4.94 ERA last year. But all the hard lessons began paying off last September, when he posted a 2.03 ERA and .208 batting average against in 14 games to help the Rockies into the postseason.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies believe the career and 2017 stats don't define right-handed relief pitcher Scott Oberg as much as illustrate a journey.

Oberg, who turns 28 next week, enters 2018 with a 5.05 ERA in 154 games over three seasons between Triple-A and the Majors. He went 0-1 with a 4.94 ERA last year. But all the hard lessons began paying off last September, when he posted a 2.03 ERA and .208 batting average against in 14 games to help the Rockies into the postseason.

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The Rockies signed closer Wade Davis and setup man Bryan Shaw to three-year contracts to be the primary righties in the bullpen. But last season, with Adam Ottavino going through a rough year, Oberg and Carlos Estevez (currently nursing a left side injury) found themselves in key situations during the final month. Oberg struck out both batters he faced during the 11-8 loss to the D-backs in the National League Wild Card Game.

"My mentality going into the offseason was just to continue to build off of the things that I finished up strong, and take a broader look at the season as a whole and address some of the things that came up," Oberg said. "Every year I go through a few weeks, a few months, to try to take an objective look at the season, see where I had success, see where I didn't and why I didn't. And just continue to learn."

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Oberg fanned 13 in 13 1/3 September innings -- a sign that he was in the strike zone early and could use his power mix of pitches and unique angles.

Setting up on the extreme first-base side of the rubber, Oberg works the glove-side corner (outside to a right-handed batter) with a four-seam fastball -- averaging 96.4 mph -- that he used 44.93 percent of the time last season and a slider he broke out 34.8 percent of the time, according to Statcast™. But he also used a two-seam fastball on the other corner at a rate of 10.93 percent, and a changeup -- also to the arm side -- 8.73 percent of the time. By being in the first-base side, his release point is in the middle of the rubber and plate, but the batter must figure which side the ball will run to and how far.

Earlier in his career, Oberg also threw a curveball, but the Rockies thought he would be more effective without it. A 15th-round pick out of the University of Connecticut in 2012, Oberg dropped the curve (in all but a few instances, such as multiple-inning outings) before the '16 season.

"It's hard to take a pitch that's a good pitch away from a pitcher, but he's a very coachable guy," said Mark Wiley, the Rockies' director of pitching operations. "When you explain things to him and they make sense, he has no problem getting invested in it.

"For a bullpen guy, he's how we like to develop our young kids and hope that they can turn out."

Video: CIN@COL: Oberg forces a groundout to escape trouble

With his pitch mix settled and a strong 2017 finish behind him, Oberg offers options for manager Bud Black. Last season, he held opponents to 3-for-15 with the bases loaded and has 17 strikeouts with runners in scoring position, so he has no issue entering with runners on base. Black also said he may stretch Oberg out this spring so he can be used in multiple innings when lefty Chris Rusin isn't available.

"It's going to take all of our parts to get 27 outs, every single baseball game," Oberg said. "For me, it doesn't really matter when I take the ball. Just get outs, help the team win. When we bring in guys like Shaw and Davis, it's just another opportunity to learn from some of the better relievers in the game."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Scott Oberg