Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg took to Instagram on Tuesday afternoon with what he called “a small life update:” after battling with blood clots in his pitching arm since 2019 and multiple derailed comeback attempts he was stepping off the mound for good.
“[I] will no longer be pursing the game I’ve loved my whole life, as a player,” Oberg wrote. “I cannot thank those closest to me enough; from my family, friends, teammates, and especially having the unwavering support of my wife. I could not have been able to accomplish anything without any of you. Love you all.”
Oberg’s last outing came on August 16, 2019 in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins. He gave up one hit in a scoreless frame where he struck out one batter and earned the save for a 3-0 Rockies victory. This unassuming save—just the seventh of his career—ended up being the last time Oberg would take to the mound wearing a Rockies uniform. On August 18th he was moved to the 10-day IL.
“His arm felt heavy. It just didn’t feel normal so he was alarmed,” Rockies manager Bud Black said at the time. “In simplest terms, blood clot in the arm, had it dissolved and from what happens today moving forward, I’ll be kept abreast of what happens. That’s as far as I know.”
Oberg was diagnosed with axillary artery thrombosis, a blood clot in his right arm. He was admitted to the hospital to have the clot dissolved and his season ended. He was transferred to the 60-day IL the next day.
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A native of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, Scott Oberg has been no stranger to medical struggles in his life as a player. As a sophomore at the University of Connecticut he found himself barely able to walk, let alone pitch. Psoriatic arthritis in his legs and feet debilitated him to the point of needing a cane to get around until the problem could be solved with medication.
“That was a tougher one to get through mentally because there was no timetable,” Oberg said. “There was so much uncertainty.”
Oberg battled through that diagnosis and was ready to pitch his junior season at UConn with renewed vigor... until he required Tommy John Surgery after injuring his elbow during practice. He would miss the entire season, but battled his way back from that too.
For his senior year at UConn, Oberg was lights out for the Huskies. In 36 1⁄3 innings he recorded a 5-0 record, an ERA of 0.99, a WHIP of 0.881, and notched nine saves. His performance over his lone full year of college ball put him on the radar of the Colorado Rockies, who selected him in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft.
Oberg impressed in every level of minor league ball he played in once he began his professional career. In 2012 he was named a Pioneer League Post-Season All-Star with the Rookie-level Grand Junction Rockies, and in 2014 he was a Mid-Season All-Star with the Texas League Double-A Tulsa Drillers. He skipped short-season and full-season A-level entirely, and not once in his first three seasons did he post an ERA above 3.00 over 105 total appearances.
Scott Oberg Minor League Pitching 2012-2014
|2012||Rk Grand Junction||25||27.0||2.33||13||20||9||7||2||6||29||0.963|
After playing just one game with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes to kick off the 2015 season, Oberg received his summons to The Show. On April 14th, 2015 he made his major league debut and was a fixture of the Rockies bullpen his entire rookie season. He made a whopping 64 appearances out of the bullpen and pitched 58 1⁄3 innings, though struggled somewhat with walks and the long ball. He walked 31 batters to his 44 strikeouts and gave up a career high 10 home runs to finish the season with a 5.09 ERA.
Oberg appeared just 24 times with the Rockies in 2016, bouncing back and forth between the big league club and Triple-A Albuquerque. It was this season that he also dealt with blood clots for the first time. After tightness in his pitching arm lingered longer than expected, tests diagnosed Oberg with axillary artery thrombosis and ended his season.
“He went for some tests yesterday that showed some clots,” then-Manager Walt Weiss said. “It’s a scary situation any time you’re talking about blood clots. It’s a good thing we got on it early. It was scary news when we got that, but I think they’re taking care of it as we speak and he’s going to be OK. But it’s tough news for Scottie.”
With the problem supposedly resolved, Oberg set sights towards 2017 where he would finally establish himself as a big league reliever. In 66 appearances over 58 1⁄3 innings Oberg posted an ERA of 4.94 with 55 strikeouts. The biggest moment of his career so far came in the 2017 National League Wild Card Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After starting pitcher Jon Gray was roughed up by the Diamondbacks through 1 1⁄3 innings, Oberg came in to stop the bleeding by striking out both batters he faced. While the Rockies may have lost, Oberg’s appearance in relief allowed them to claw their way back and make it a game.
Oberg’s career-defining moment would come the following season. In 2018 he put together his best major league campaign with a 2.45 ERA in 56 outings and 58 2⁄3 innings largely as a late-inning and setup man. With Oberg as a key contributor to their pitching staff, the Rockies found themselves once again in the National League Wild Card Game. This time, however, it ended a little differently.
After making sure neither he nor Tony Wolters would ever need to pay for a beer in LoDo again, Oberg began another successful season as a late inning reliever and eventually the Rockies’ primary closer. He made 49 appearances in 2019 over 56 innings and notched a career high five saves. He struck out a career high 58 batters and carried an ERA of just 2.25 well into the month of August.
Then “his arm felt heavy. It just didn’t feel normal so he was alarmed.”
After three years the clots in his pitching arm had returned and once again ended his season prematurely. What no one knew at the time was that Scott Oberg had thrown his final pitch of professional baseball.
Oberg made three scoreless appearances during spring training in 2020 before camp was shut down and the season delayed and eventually shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic surging across the United States. When play eventually began, he was placed on the injured list to start the campaign with a lower back strain. Before he could return, the clots resurfaced again and he would end up missing the rest of the year. Following the 2020 season Oberg would undergo thoracic outlet surgery and also have a rib removed to relieve pressure on his blood vessels. Oberg’s new goal was returning for the 2021 season.
Scott Oberg arrived in Arizona for 2021 spring training with a mission. In four scoreless outings he gave up just two hits and struck out four batters while walking none. It appeared he was ready to resume his duties as one of the Rockies’ best relievers. On March 25th he felt discomfort in his elbow after a morning practice. Oberg underwent another procedure to remove the clots, but this time there was no bouncing back.
“It was a tough one,” said Bud Black. “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.”
As Oberg began to contemplate life after baseball, he set the wheels in motion for his future. He began working on his master’s degree in sports management from Georgetown University while also exploring roles within the Rockies organization. He was a mentor and advisor for an increasingly young Rockies bullpen. He worked closely with the front office and the analytics team. He worked as a scout and even assisted the Rockies with the draft. He also was the Rockies’ MLBPA representative during the difficulties of the league-initiated MLB lockout prior to the 2022 season.
Oberg is now prepared for his new baseball life: with his retirement he has joined the front office as a special assistant to baseball operations.
Scott Oberg Career MLB Pitching
Despite blood clots taking him out of the game while he was just entering his prime at age 29, Scott Oberg has a cemented legacy on the mound for the Rockies. Over five big league seasons he has a career ERA of 3.85 and 234 strikeouts. His role in Rockies playoff baseball, from his relief in 2017 to his four-strikeout heroics in 2018, will never be forgotten. While it’s immensely sad to see Oberg relent and throw in the towel for his big league career, one can’t help but find joy that he will continue to be around the game he loves and the team he came up with.
Hand the ball to the skipper, Scott Oberg, take a bow, and walk off the field with your head held high to the sound of a standing ovation. While it was a shorter outing than expected, it was one hell of a career.
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Excerpted from Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding’s latest newsletter, the Rockies will be holding a pitching mini-camp next weekend in Scottsdale. The team will be inviting their pitching draft picks, prospects, and acquisitions to Arizona as “a logical next step in the organization’s attempt to build lasting quality and depth” according to director of pitching operations Steve Foster. Foster will be joined by manager Bud Black, MLB pitching coach Darryl Scott, MLB bullpen coach Reid Cornelius, every pitching coach and coordinator across each minor league level, and former coach Marcel Lachemann.
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