When Rockies manager Bud Black heard that Scott Oberg would need surgery to remove a blood clot in his right arm, all Black wanted to do was hug him.
Oberg had the procedure Thursday, his fourth bout with the condition. Oberg, one of the team leaders and its players association representative, was on the cusp of playing in his first regular-season game since 2019.
It was emotional for everyone, Black said, from the players to the front office staff who drafted him in 2012. Younger players looked up to Oberg, Black said, and often went to him for advice.
"We are crushed by the news,” Black said. “This is life stuff. These things are difficult because you become part of these guys' lives, they become family.”
Oberg pitched in the Rockies “B” game Wednesday, then reported to the trainer's room Thursday morning. His hand was numb, and he was experiencing soreness and circulation issues. Oberg, having been through this before, knew the signs. He was sent to the hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he had the surgery Thursday night.
“That was devastating,” reliever Tyler Kinley said. “It’s going to be a tough loss. Most importantly, this is about Scott’s life and Scott’s happiness going forward. Things like that really make the game seem trivial.”
Oberg first experienced a blood clot in 2018, and it also happened in 2019. In 2020, as Oberg was close to making a comeback, he experienced those same symptoms. He had another surgery in September, this time at the University of Pennsylvania.
He was ready by February for the beginning of camp, and he made five spring training appearances.
"To have it happen again is super disheartening," outfielder Charlie Blackmon said. "I feel really bad for Scott. I just know how much he enjoys playing the game and how much I enjoy having him around. It just makes you realize how fragile careers are."
It’s possible that this latest surgery could be career-ending, but Black said it was too early to speculate. Oberg will consult with specialists in upcoming weeks and months.
“He was really finding his way as a really reliable big league relief pitcher,” Black said. “The last 100 innings or so you could see the consistency of performance. It looked as though he was going to be on his way to a nice run of performance for years.”
Oberg was one of the Rockies' best and most reliable relievers in 2018 and 2019, with a combined ERA of 2.35 for the two seasons. He got the last out of the Rockies' only playoff win this decade, striking out four batters in Game 2 of the National League wild card in 2018.
“I will never forget the visual of the breaking ball down the zone to Javier Báez and Tony catching it, jumping up and the celebration on the mound,” Black said. “Scotty pitched great. He was the guy at the end that closed it out.”
The Rockies have not decided whether they will carry 13 or 14 pitchers this year, and have not said who Oberg's replacement will be. Daniel Bard is expected to be the closer for the second year in a row.
Black isn’t sure if Oberg will be around the team this season, but he said the most important thing right now is to make sure Oberg gets in front of the right specialists.
“This one hurts,” Black said. “We’ll move forward, and Scotty will move forward as well.”