Brad Brach moved past the cliche.
Now, something else is fueling him.
Brach, a reliever for the Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm, is one of the many Advanced Class A players in town for today's California League-Carolina League All-Star Game at BB&T Coastal Field.
In a short time, he went from a guy selected in the 42nd round of the 50-round 2008 MLB amateur draft to a pitcher who has the San Diego Padres brass anxious for the next step of his development. All the while, Brach has started to feed off his own success.
Never miss a local story.
"I've blown one save, and my goal was not to [give away any]," Brach said. "I know it's a crazy goal, but if I fall just short of no blown saves, that's not that bad of a season."
Through the first half of the season, Brach has converted 25 of his 26 save attempts for the Storm. His ERA stands at a minuscule 2.18 and he has tallied 37 strikeouts to just four walks.
It's nearly everything he wanted to accomplish, especially after the type of year he had in 2009. In his first full season of professional baseball after setting Monmouth University records for wins and strikeouts, Brach was every bit as dominant.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander was named the Class A relief pitcher of the year while playing for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. His strikeout-walk ratio in 60 games was an absurd 82-11.
It earned Brach a promotion to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, where he has continued to impress.
"Brach has been nothing short of spectacular the last two years," Padres Director of Player Development Randy Smith said via e-mail. "He works very quick, pounds the zone with quality strikes. His [fastball] has improved to go along with his [slider] and [change]. We are thrilled with his development."
After serving as a starter at Monmouth, Brach was placed in the bullpen once in the Padres organization. It paid dividends almost immediately. Instead of pitching late into ballgames, he is almost always now expected to get only three outs.
It's allowed him to pitch with much more intensity, especially with his fastball, which Brach said has increased by a few notches on the radar gun.
"After college, I realized when you're in relief, you don't need to pace yourself," said Brach, whose fastball sits consistently in the low-90s. "It's gone up over the last two-three years. Hopefully I can keep doing that."
Upon his promotion to Lake Elsinore, Brach said he was worried about the hitter-friendly parks in the California League and what it would do to his production, but his numbers have stayed consistent.
Although he may not be pitching at San Diego's PetCo Park in the next few months, Brach's success to this point could have him rising up the Padres' ladder quickly.
Neither Brach nor Smith defined how long the reliever will stay with the Storm. Brach believes it's part of the organization's way of keeping players focused on their work instead of where they might be the next day.
For now, Brach is tearing it up in Lake Elsinore, which has led to today, when more than likely fans at BB&T will have a chance to see one of the best relievers in all of minor-league baseball.
"When I first got drafted, I wanted to prove some people wrong," Brach said. "I had a successful season last year. ... People kind of forget about where you were drafted."