Oberg undergoes surgery to remove clots

Baseball future remains murky for longtime Rockie

March 27th, 2021

Rockies right-handed relief pitcher Scott Oberg underwent surgery Thursday night to treat a recurrence of blood clots in his right elbow that have kept him out of Major League action since August 2019. It is his fourth bout with the condition.

The surgery, performed at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., will likely end the career of Oberg, whose 259 games are the most of any Rockies pitcher since he debuted in 2015.

Oberg, 30, was one of the Majors’ top relievers in 2018 and ‘19 before the condition -- which first flared in ‘18 -- returned and ended his season. Oberg was seemingly close to a comeback last August when the condition flared again.

Oberg pitched Wednesday in a "B" game, then felt discomfort during Thursday morning’s practice. Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger, having seen the symptoms before, alerted doctors.

“Obviously, we’re all devastated by this, knowing Scotty like we do, and knowing some of the heartache that he has been through over the course of his career as it relates to this problem,” Rockies manager Bud Black said Saturday morning. “We are crushed by the news. This is life stuff, right?

“On a personal level, these things are difficult because you become part of these guys lives, they become family -- you hear that talked about in professional sports and a lot of workplaces. This one hurts.”

Black, who said that he holds out hope that Oberg can pitch again if it is determined safe, said that Oberg has been released from the hospital and he was scheduled to visit the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick during the afternoon.

“It was a tough one,” Black said. “He is one of the leaders on the team. He’s the union representative with the Rockies with the [MLB] Players Association. That’s a big role for any player. He was a guy other guys could lean on for advice. He was a vital member of our team and well-liked.”

In September 2020, Oberg underwent surgery at the University of Pennsylvania for thoracic outlet syndrome. The hope was that by having doctors remove the top rib on his right side, some of the constriction that led to the clots would subside.

This spring, Oberg made four scoreless appearances, the last coming Monday. Oberg had four strikeouts, hit one batter and held opponents to two hits across his four innings this spring, and he appeared to be moving toward being healthy enough to start the season. But then the flareup occurred Thursday night.

In 2018 and ’19, Oberg went 14-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 105 appearances. His ERA is fifth lowest among pitchers with at least 100 innings since ’18. Oberg’s 3.85 ERA is seventh-lowest in club history among pitchers with at least 200 innings.

Black recalled Oberg’s signature moment -- the 2018 National League Wild Card Game. Oberg fanned all four Cubs that he faced in the 12th and 13th innings. The last three came after Tony Wolters had provided the deciding run of the 2-1 victory with an RBI single in the top of the 13th.

“I will never forget the visual of the breaking ball down below the zone to Javier Báez and Tony [Wolters] catching it, jumping up, and the celebration on the mound,” Black said. “I’ll always remember that day, that night, that pitch, and that exhilaration and exuberance and emotion that we felt. That was awesome.”