Oberg takes first big step toward return

March 13th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed pitcher felt the adrenaline, then looked at the Giants’ hitters and figured it was not the best time to reflect on his painful journey back to game action.

Oberg had to end 2019 in August because of blood clots in his right arm, his second bout with the condition. After last year’s extended pandemic delay, the condition flared again, and he missed the season. Oberg underwent surgery to remove the top rib on the right side to reduce the constriction that can create blood clots.

Quite a bit to endure. But Oberg’s inning in his 2021 Spring Training debut included hitters who can knock nostalgic thoughts out of the park. Oberg did just fine. He gave up a hit but no runs, and bested Buster Posey (grounder to third) and Brandon Crawford (popup to third). His work in the fifth inning of the 9-8 Rockies loss at Scottsdale Stadium is, he hopes, a key step toward the season-opening roster.

“I had more of those thoughts and feelings leading up to it this past week,” Oberg said. “When I was out there, I was trying to compete. I was glad that I got to face some of the regular players -- guys I have faced many times. That was a good test, to see guys like Posey and Crawford.”

Oberg was 14-2 with a 2.35 ERA and five saves in 105 games over the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Friday, he offered reminders why. He fanned Wilmer Flores to open the inning. The only hit was Austin Slater’s two-out single.

“It’s a testament to him and his determination to come back and pitch after overcoming some physical obstacles,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.

The plan is to use Oberg in a total of eight outings this spring, but monitor how he feels after each time he throws. If he is fine after all that, he can begin the regular season on the active roster. If not, the Rockies will adjust.

Friday felt special. The hope now is for outings to feel more normal.

“It's just a matter of being able to slow myself down mentally, and allowing my body to flow in a rhythm that it makes sense for me and the way that I want to,” Oberg said. “Hopefully, I can keep making that adjustment and keep feeling those things out. That’s going to be a challenge in itself, just dealing with the adrenaline boost that you can’t really create anywhere else.”