On the list of reasons righthander Brad Brach wanted to join the Mets, from growing up a fan of the team to his brother’s recommendation of manager Mickey Callaway, the opportunity to pitch in a playoff race ranked prominently.
He has been to the postseason before, with the Orioles in 2014 and 2016 and the Braves in 2018. And he looked like he was headed back to the postseason this year with the Cubs, the NL Central leaders who released him Monday.
So joining the Mets, who are in the NL wild-card hunt and have a severe shortage of reliable relievers, meant a chance to play in October again.
“I just want to be with a team that was in the race,” Brach, 33, said Friday. “I know how it is, especially with Mets fans, how excited they get when they are in a race. It was all that stuff kind of came together in a perfect storm. It seems like a really good opportunity.
“I think I can [be] a big asset to this bullpen and I know they need a little bit of help down there, so that’s pretty much why I’m here.”
Brach is honest in assessing his season: He wasn’t good enough in Chicago, and he doesn’t totally know why. He said things were going well until June, when across two appearances against Colorado he allowed eight runs in one inning. Excluding that pair of outings, his 6.13 ERA drops to 4.42, still high but significantly closer to his career mark of 3.32.
After getting rocked by the Rockies, Brach never recovered.
“I didn’t locate very well there for a little bit,” Brach said. “I just couldn’t get myself out of a funk. Obviously because I wasn’t pitching well, [the Cubs are] in a pennant race too, so there wasn’t as many opportunities. I could sit here and make excuses all day, but at the end of the day I didn’t pitch well enough. I had four or five days here to clear my head and get back to the basics. I’m ready to go.”
Brach’s brother, Brett Brach, was a minor-league pitcher for the Indians from 2009-14, overlapping with Callaway’s tenure as a minor-league pitching coach for Cleveland.
Brett never made it to the majors, but now Callaway gets to help try to fix Brad.
“We did look at his pitch usage and things like that and kind of filled him in on what we saw, like a little bit of a decrease in changeup usage, which is one of his better pitches,” Callaway said. “I’m looking forward to him throwing some good, meaningful innings for us.”
More than anything, though, Brach yearned to pitch for the Mets, his and his family’s favorite team. Among his favorite players as a kid: Robin Ventura and Rey Ordonez. Even as he has bounced around the professional ranks for the past 12 seasons, he has followed the Mets closely, including attending Game 3 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field with his wife and brothers.
That personal history helped set the Mets apart from the other six or seven teams that offered him major-league contracts this week, Brach said.
“When David Wright hit that home run, it was probably one of the best baseball moments I’ve had, regardless of on the field or not,” Brach said. “[New York] was where my heart was, where my head was and I just feel like this is the place where I had the best opportunity to really help the team. It’s exciting coming into a pennant race like this.”