Closing time

Oberg takes the reins as closer at Class A Advanced Modesto

Scott Oberg delivers a pitch during a game for the Modesto Nuts recently. Oberg, who was the Grand Junction Rockies’ closer last season, is having a strong season after skipping two levels to start the year.

Scott Oberg did a double-take at the assignment board this spring.

He fully expected to be in the group of former Grand Junction Rockies players headed to Asheville, N.C., for Class A ball this season.

On the Modesto roster, though, was his name. Oberg was headed for Class A Advanced in the California League, skipping two levels.

“It was definitely a shock when I came in that morning and saw all the names posted,” he said of his assignment.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting that, and I hadn’t been working out with the Modesto team that much in spring training. I assumed I’d be in Asheville, but things just happened the way they did. I hit the ground running.”

That’s for sure.

Oberg, who grasped the closer’s role during the second half of last season in Grand Junction, already has 15 saves through Friday night, including closing out GJ alum Eddie Butler’s first win in Modesto on June 4 with a scoreless ninth inning. With a 1-4 record and 1.75 ERA in his first 28 appearances, Oberg has struck out 25 batters and walked 15.

He made the California League All-Star team and pitched one inning in the game last week.

“I hadn’t really closed before until that spring, my last year at school (University of Connecticut),” he said. “That was my first year being in that closing role and maybe for three or four weeks (last summer), whatever point they made the decision I was going to be the closer. I just went with it and did the best I could.”

Oberg’s games are spent all over the park. The relievers spend the first three innings in the dugout studying the opposing hitters before heading to the bullpen.

“We go to the bullpen and take it easy in the middle innings. We’re still paying attention to what’s going on, but we’re not as close to the action as we are in the dugout,” he said.

“When the seventh inning comes along, I see where the score is, anticipating if I’ll get in tonight, and if so, start my process of getting ready.”

A lot of that is mentally preparing, he said.

“When I get out there, the game’s over and there’s nobody better,” he said of the attitude he takes to the mound. “Even if I don’t have my best stuff, it’s still going to be a problem for them to get guys on.”

Oberg only faces a few batters each night out, so he goes right after them.

“You tend to focus more on how the hitters approach things,” he said of the difference in the talent of hitters. “In college you can go up there and you really only need to have a game plan for one or two guys who might hurt you in the lineup.

“As long as you’re throwing strikes, you’re still going to get guys out, and you don’t have to think about it. You get to that next level, you’re calling your own game and what did you throw this guy before, what can and can’t he hit, what might he be looking for in this situation. It brings in all those variables and opens up your mind to every situation.”

He’s learned to do that thinking between pitches. Once he toes the rubber, he clears his mind.

“It’s funny, you have to be thinking about all these things, but on the mound you don’t want to think at all,” Oberg said. “You don’t want that to affect anything. You have to trust your instincts. It’s a fine line you’re teetering on.”


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