The frustration level was at an all-time high for Oklahoma City’s Brett Oberholtzer last week.
Fresh off his second stint in the majors with the Houston Astros this season, the promising left-hander struggled in his first start back in Triple-A with the RedHawks, and he knows exactly why.
“I was just kind of out of it, didn’t really feel like pitching, and that’s not me,” Oberholtzer said. “It’s not easy putting your emotions aside after going up and doing well and coming back down, especially when you wanted so bad to be there and you know it’s going to be your career.”
Oberholtzer has gone from sixth man in a six-man rotation in Houston to the sixth man waiting to be called up when needed, a role he is ready to embrace when he takes the mound Friday for the RedHawks as they open a four-game set with Las Vegas at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
And his mind is already in a better place, starting with moving past that fretful June 5 start in Omaha in which he allowed five earned runs on eight hits over six innings. Three of those hits were long home runs.
“My brain says, ‘Come on, work out, you’ve got to run and continue to work.’ but my heart and soul wasn’t really in it that quick back already,” Oberholtzer said. “I tried to will myself back. Sometimes it takes guys a year to get over it and they’re still kinda down in the dumps. But I’m back, I’m fresh, feel good and ready to continue.”
After spending the final portion of the season in Houston and tasting relative success, Oberholtzer earned a spot in the Astros’ rotation to start the season. But he started 0-6 before being sent to Oklahoma City in early May.
He then returned for two starts at the end of May, and was impressive. He allowed just three earned runs in 13 innings.
But there was a problem. Oberholtzer became the odd man out when the Astros abandoned a six-man rotation.
Oberholtzer had a meeting following that start with OKC manager Tony DeFrancesco, who basically said he didn’t need to let the organization’s decision affect him.
“I tried to tell him I’ve been doing this for 11 years in Triple-A,” DeFrancesco said. “A lot of guys got sent down, a lot of disappointments, a lot of people believe they can be in the big leagues, but the way the game is, all you do is prepare while you’re down here. If you let that affect the way you prepare, you’re only hurting yourself.”
Oberholtzer nearly returned to Houston this week when starter Collin McHugh dealt with a blister on his finger. His scheduled start on Wednesday was skipped, offering a glimmer of hope he would return to the majors.
Instead, he takes the mound Friday knowing he needs to regain the form he’s shown at times this season for when he gets another chance in the big leagues.
“Obviously, the starters have been the backbone of the team this year,” he said. “I know I’ll get my chance, whether it’s with this team or another organization down the road.”