After strong spring, Bailey Ober still doesn’t know where he’ll start the season
The right-hander has been good this spring, but with a full rotation, he appears headed for Triple-A St. Paul when camp ends
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The uncertainty around his roster status, Bailey Ober admits, has been tough on him.
His wife, Montana, has served as a sounding board when he needs to vent and a distraction when he needs to take his mind off of baseball. Chasing around four kids under the age of 4 helps, too.
“It’s definitely hard,” Ober said. “But it’s a little better when I come home and I get to play with the kids in the pool and enjoy being a dad.”
The right-hander did everything in his power this spring to make the Twins’ decision as difficult as possible. And while they haven’t yet told him whether he will start the season in the majors or at Triple-A, the signs point toward St. Paul.
Ober, who finished off his spring slate by giving up three runs in four innings on Saturday, had not given up a run — or even a hit — in his first three Grapefruit League appearances. He spent the offseason trying to get quicker and stronger and said he felt like that had paid off.
“I think it’s all out of my hands,” he said. “They’re going to do whatever they think is the right decision, and that’s their call. I’m just trying to do everything I can to force their hand to make their decision hard. Hopefully I did this spring.”
Ober said he has been expecting either scenario — starting in the majors or the minors — just so “I’m not really blindsided.”
He certainly pitched well enough to earn a spot in the rotation. But the 27-year-old has faced an uphill path to a spot since the Twins acquired Pablo Lopez in January. The move figured to bump Ober from the rotation if all projected starters — Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda — remained healthy.
To this point, they have, and while president of baseball operations Derek Falvey has said he is more open to the idea of a six-man rotation than he had been coming into camp, the Twins prefer to carry eight relievers instead.
“He’s had a really good spring training. He was good early. He was good in the middle and he’s been good late — and he physically looks good and his execution has been really good,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’ll also say: there are situations in spring training where performance in spring training and what guys look like really do matter in the decisions that are being made. And there are other times where they matter less.”
While Ober figures to begin the season in St. Paul, the Twins expect him to have opportunities to pitch at the major league level this year, perhaps as early as April.
Ober was with the major league team all of last season after finishing out the 2021 season with 20 starts in the majors. While he posted good results when healthy, Ober missed most of the season sidelined by groin injuries. He posted a 3.21 earned-run average in 11 starts last year.
“It’s hard not knowing what’s going to happen but, I mean, it is what it is,” Ober said. “That’s their call and how they’re going about their decision-making. (I’ve) got to respect it. It’s just whatever comes down to it. I’ll be ready to take the ball wherever I’m at.”
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