Twins starter Bailey Ober wraps up successful rookie season

Before the 2021 season began, Bailey Ober figured he might get a call-up later in the year, perhaps to help the Twins make a September push for the playoffs.

There was no push for the playoffs, of course, but there was a rookie season beyond Ober’s expectations, one that reached its conclusion on Tuesday when the Twins placed the 26-year-old on the injured list with a right hip strain.

“I didn’t think I was going to be up for this large of a body (of work) up here,” Ober said. “It’s definitely been unreal to be able to stay up here as long as I have been and have some of the success that I had.”

In 20 starts at the major league level this year, Ober posted a 4.19 earned-run average, taking hold of a rotation spot for good in early June when the Twins finally shifted Matt Shoemaker to the bullpen. Beyond his success on the field, he didn’t have arm issues throughout the entirety of the season, a welcomed development for Ober, who said he hadn’t had a pain-free season since 2016.

The club has been carefully monitoring Ober’s workload this year as a result — the righty underwent Tommy John surgery while in college and had elbow issues in both 2018 and 2019 before the minor league season was wiped out in 2020.

“It’s definitely been neat to see the stuff that I’ve been putting in off the field is paying off a little bit ,and hopefully I can continue that going into next year,” Ober said.

Prior to this year, he had never thrown more than 80 innings in any season as a professional. He ends 2021 at 108 1/3.

While coming out of games early was not always ideal for the competitor in Ober — his pitch count was often held to around 75 pitches — he understood and respected the decision of the Twins in an attempt to keep him healthy.

And it’s hard to argue with the results.

“A lot of the starting pitchers last year maybe threw about 60 innings, around there,” Ober said. “I had zero, so I had even less. And I somehow made it through this year without being injured, and my arm feels grear. So the regimen that I have been doing and sticking to and all the people that have been helping me, I’m going to continue to do that and continue to learn and try to find new ways to improve my body and stay healthy.”

While Ober’s season is ending one start short of what it would have otherwise, the Twins have been pleased with what they saw from the rookie over the course of the year as he carved out a role for himself in the rotation.

The Twins put Ober on the 40-man roster ahead of this season, and general manager Thad Levine, citing how uncomfortable opposing hitters are in the box against him, said the Twins were always curious “how that would play in the big leagues, how that would play pitching every five days.”

Ober spent this season answering those questions.

“He’s gone out there and really had a tremendous season. In a season that was dying for some silver linings, I think Bailey Ober presents as one of the more prominent silver linings for the season and goes into this offseason in a really good position relative to factoring into our starting rotation for next year,” Levine said.

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