Tampa Bay Rays prospect Erik Ostberg making minor league baseball history with arm, hoping for impact with bat


Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2023 12:04 PM

Hitters last feared Erik Ostberg’s fastball when he took the mound at the Cal Ripken level.

Nevertheless, the Florence native took the ball when Montgomery Biscuits manager Morgan Ensberg needed an arm to face the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and their Double A hitters on April 9. The Tampa Bay Rays had suffered several injuries at the major league level and pulled up arms from Triple A, which meant pitchers had to go up from Double A. That left the Biscuits short near the end of a wild game.

Ostberg kept the words of his youth pitching coaches Fred Ciaglo and his dad Rob Ostberg in mind, keeping his delivery short and simple, throwing strikes and painting the corners. He registered a strikeout then homered in his next at bat, making him the first pitcher to hit a home run in the DH era in the minor leagues. 

“We’ve had some weird games. Weird scores, long innings, pitchers have had high pitch counts. That leads to me pitching,” Ostberg said. “I’d been effective on the mound, got up to 87-89 (miles per hour). I was getting guys out.”

Montgomery went to extra innings against the Mississippi Braves on April 19, and Ensberg turned to Ostberg again after the Biscuits ran out of scheduled pitchers. He struck out two and walked one to earn the save, becoming the first Montgomery position player to register the statistic.

“That’s one of those things in 20 years I’ll talk about it. It’s a funny stat I can say that I have,” Ostberg said. “That’s fun. Baseball is supposed to be fun. It’s fun I can tell my kids one day I came in extra innings and got the save in Double A.”

Baseball is still fun for Ostberg in his seventh professional season that spans most of the minor league ladder and some independent ball in 2020. All of his 2017 draft class is out of baseball except for Rays shortstop Taylor Walls, a third round pick that made his big league debut in 2021. People ask Ostberg why he’s still in Double A or complain to him why he can’t move up, but he tries not to get bogged down.

The Rays feature one of the most talented farm systems in all of baseball. The two catchers above him in Triple A have major league experience and the two with him in Montgomery were first-round picks.

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“I get extremely frustrated sometimes. I’m frustrated with myself at times. But I know I’m good, and I believe that I’m good and I see what I’m able to do physically,” Ostberg said.

He’s shown as much of his talent as he can in a platoon offensive role in 2023. Playing in just five of Montgomery’s first 15 games, Ostberg has three hits including a double and a homer and two RBIs.

“I want to dominate where I’m at. I’ve shown I can last year and that I have toughness and I’m a good guy in the locker room and I have a lot of value in a couple different facets,” Ostberg said. “My goal is to dominate this level and use my knowledge to make good decisions in the game and hopefully we end up in a better spot next year. Really I’m at a point where the situation at the big league level is totally affecting me.”

He’ll become a free agent after this season and is hoping to show his skills well enough to find a situation that fits him better in 2024.

“I’m playing for all the teams,” Ostberg said. “I’m trying to have a job next year.”

Meanwhile, he’s enjoying his second full season in Montgomery. The Biscuits are 10-5 atop the Southern League standings.

“At the end of the day I love to play. I love to wear the jersey. I wouldn’t want to do anything else at the moment. That keeps me going. I like going to the field every day,” Ostberg said. “If you don’t have the desire to be at the field every day, it beats you up and it’s going to chew you up and spit you out with how much failure there is and how talented everybody is.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>