Scott Oberg‘s arm was just the right amount of sore the day after his first spring training game.
Even a good kind of sore, the Colorado Rockies right-handed reliever explained Saturday morning on the heels of his 17-pitch, four-batter outing against San Francisco. Most definitely the sort of sore that he views as a step in the right direction.
Oberg’s steadily working his way back to the mound after missing all of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season due to a blood clot – the third time over his career the issue has surfaced. Oberg underwent thoracic outlet surgery in September, which he’s optimistic will alleviate the concern.
“It just felt good to be back out there (Friday), to get through the whole rehab process, to go through all the obstacles that I’ve had to undergo the last couple of years,” said Oberg, who remains on track to be part of the bullpen when the Rockies begin the season by hosting the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers on April 1. “A big step for me physically and mentally.”
Oberg hasn’t appeared in a big league games since Aug. 16, 2019, against Miami. A few days after the outing, he went on the injured list with axillary artery thrombosis (blood clot) in his right arm.
When baseball returned over the summer, Oberg began the abbreviated season sidelined by a back injury. Soon after, the blood-clot issue in his arm again ended his season.
Oberg went through genetics testing after the first time the clot happened in 2016. That link was ruled out.
The consensus seems to be his arm trauma is caused by throwing.
“We talked with the vascular surgeons and it was more like, `Hey, there are more things that can be accomplished,”‘ Oberg said. “Hopefully they can get to the root cause of it, which theoretically they think they did.”
He will be monitored closely and undergo routine ultrasounds on his arm – “just to make sure the blood is flowing through the arteries properly,” Oberg said. The ultrasounds may be as often as before each homestand or possibly once a month.
“I worry about all of our players. With Scotty maybe a little bit more based on the history,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Scotty knows when something’s up.”
Each time, though, the symptoms have manifested a little bit different.
“There are a few signs that I had noticed,” said Oberg, who turned 31 on Saturday. “Unfortunately, there’s not too many things that we can do to really catch this ahead of time.”
Oberg looked sharp in his spring debut. His fastball velocity was a little bit down – between 92 and 94 mph – but his breaking pitches had plenty of bite.
“Overall, his stuff was I thought very good for this time of spring,” Black said.
Oberg believes a few more outings will have him ready for opening day despite a later-than-usual start to his throwing program. He didn’t toss as many bullpen sessions out of precaution.
“Just to make sure everything was squared away, everything was good,” said Oberg, a 15th-round pick by Colorado in the 2012 amateur draft who’s appeared in 259 career games with a 3.85 ERA. “My hope, by the end of camp, is to be able to get into a back-to-back situation and feel good on both days and the days leading after it.”
For words of wisdom, he doesn’t have far to go. Daniel Bard, who’s in line to be Colorado’s closer, had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome several years ago.
Oberg’s also communicated with Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer, who missed all of the 2020 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates while recovering from surgery to relieve symptoms of neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.
Like Oberg, Archer appeared in his first spring training game Friday. Oberg sent a congratulatory text after Archer retired all four Boston batters he faced.
“It’s been fun for me to be able to follow his progress, the same way I’m following my own,” Oberg said. “Somebody in the trenches with you, so to speak.
“It’s nice to lean on somebody and talk to them.”