Second in a series analyzing the New York Mets.
Brad Brach honored his love of the Mets by giving the team a boost from the bullpen over the final two months of last season.
The Freehold, N.J., native so much embraced the Mets growing up that he attended Game 3 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field as a fan, after his season with the Orioles had concluded.
After arriving with the Mets last August — he had been dumped by the Cubs — the veteran right-hander pitched to a respectable 3.68 ERA and 1.227 WHIP over 16 appearances, continuing the seesaw ride his career has become in recent seasons.
With the Cubs last season, he pitched to a 6.13 ERA and 1.765 WHIP over 42 appearances, prompting his release. A year earlier he had pitched to a 1.52 ERA over the final two months for the Braves after struggling with the Orioles.
The Mets, in desperate need of bullpen help, re-signed Brach last offseason for $850,000. The deal contains a player option that, if exercised, would pay Brach $1.25 million in 2021.
Brach, 34, credits his rebound last season for the confidence the Mets coaching staff showed in allowing him to throw his favorite pitch.
“The biggest thing was using the cutter a lot more, I was able to be a lot more aggressive in the zone and I think it kind of just made everything else a little bit better,” Brach said in spring training. “Coming over here and really the coaching staff gave me the confidence just throwing that thing a lot and they really liked it. I kind of saw it as a, ‘What else do I have to lose’ kind of thing.”
The Mets have huge question marks surrounding Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances in the bullpen. Diaz and Familia grossly underperformed last season, while new-arrival Betances appeared in only one game for the Yankees because of injuries. Brach is a question mark on a smaller scale, but could be a hidden gem for a team in need of dependable options beyond Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson, who carried the bullpen last season. Also part of that mix is Robert Gsellman.
“[Brach] is one of those guys that had a tough road and certainly when he got a little success just kept going and going and he’s still pitching, which is great,” said former Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace, who oversaw Brach’s emergence as an All-Star in 2016.
“He was just one of those guys when we got him from the Padres was just so hyper, so we got him to calm down a little bit and trust his stuff. He’s got a great changeup against left-handers.”
Brach’s workload last season decreased to 58 games, in part because of ineffectiveness with the Cubs, but Wallace says there should be plenty remaining in the right-hander’s arm.
“I think he got worn out that one year a little bit in Atlanta, but one of the things Buck [Showalter] does better than anybody is he protects relief pitchers,” Wallace said, referring to the former Orioles manager. “But I think [Brach] has got some juice left in him. He was a late-bloomer kind of guy and really wasn’t a starting pitcher with hundreds of innings in the minor leagues so I think his shelf life still should be pretty good.”