Rockies right-handed reliever Scott Oberg's sore back will send him to the 10-day injured list for the beginning of the 60-game regular season, which starts Friday at Texas.
Oberg went 14-2 with a 2.35 ERA, five saves and 115 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings over the past two seasons. The 30-year-old threw in only one intrasquad game during Summer Camp at Coors Field. The Rockies backed away from pitching him in Monday’s exhibition game against the Rangers at Globe Life Field before coming to the decision to place him on the IL.
Oberg's IL stint will be backdated to Monday, which makes him eligible to return for the Rockies' home opener on July 31 vs. the Padres after missing the first six games.
“We sort of came to that decision late [Tuesday] night, and through [Wednesday] sort of finalized that, so that’s a little bit of a blow,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “But we don’t think it’s going to be that long, hopefully.
“He threw [Wednesday]. He didn’t throw off the mound. He threw in the outfield, had a good, intensive game of catch, some kind of long toss, and didn’t feel any discomfort in his back. We’ll pop him up on the mound here in a day or two, get him back to throwing the ball with intensity to the catcher.”
Last season, Oberg replaced a struggling Wade Davis as closer in early August, but his season ended early because of a surgery to remove blood clots from his right arm. Black said recently that a 60-game regular season could mean using multiple pitchers in the closer's role. Oberg will likely be part of the ninth-inning mix when healthy.
Teams must submit their season-opening 30-man roster by Thursday at 10 a.m. MT. Black didn’t announce all his decisions, but he said that Jairo Díaz and Carlos Estévez emerged last season as late-game options alongside Davis, while veteran Daniel Bard “could really make an impact.” Black also mentioned that righty Tyler Kinley and lefties James Pazos and Phillip Diehl “can help" out of the bullpen.
Right-handers Chi Chi González and Jeff Hoffman can also help the bullpen early. Black hasn’t said if he’ll go with five starters the first time through the rotation or stay with four -- Germán Márquez, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela -- as Colorado has two off-days in the first week of the season.
The Rockies' plan is to carry 15 pitchers. Black has said righty Yency Almonte has earned his spot, which leaves only one opening.
Righty Ashton Goudeau made a case with two strong innings in Tuesday's exhibition game vs. the Rangers. Also in the mix are three pitchers with Major League experience -- righty Jesus Tinoco, who is on the 40-man roster, and a pair of non-roster invitees, lefty Tim Collins and righty Joe Harvey.
Three catchers make team
Non-roster invitees Drew Butera, who homered and doubled during Wednesday night’s 7-3 exhibition win over the Rangers, and Elias Díaz have made the 30-man roster to start the season. The two right-handed hitters will join left-handed-hitting starter Tony Wolters.
Butera, who has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Rockies, is not only a solid defender and handler of pitchers, but he can also play first base in a pinch. Butera played at first late in Summer Camp, and he has 26 career appearances (four starts) at the position.
Regular first baseman Daniel Murphy and second baseman Ryan McMahon, who can move to first when Murphy serves as designated hitter, are left-handed hitters, so Butera is a righty complement there if needed.
“I was very fortunate to learn the position back in 2011 or ’12 from [former manager] Tom Kelly with the Twins,” said Butera, who turns 37 on Aug. 9. “That has helped me through my career, being versatile and able to go over there in a pinch, give somebody a day off.”
Díaz, 29, batted .250 in 250 games over five seasons with the Pirates before signing with the Rockies this past winter.
“He got a little bit of a late start [being cleared for Summer Camp], but he’s acclimated himself rapidly,” Black said. “Spring Training was obviously beneficial for him, coming to a new team, getting to know our guys, getting to know our pitchers, getting to know our expectations from that position and some of our philosophies on pitching. He’s been a great student.”