Scott Oberg progressing after blood clot sidelined reliever in 2020

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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.”

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.