BALTIMORE -- Around the All-Star break last season, when fellow Oriole relievers Zach Britton and Darren O'Day were spending the weekend as All-Stars in Cincinnati, Brad Brach was texting his brother Brett. Brad was wondering when his mindset had shifted from thinking he should be an All-Star to just trying to stay on a team.
From that moment forward, Brach said he's been aggressive when attacking hitters. He's tried to pitch like an All-Star would. And with about two weeks before the 2016 All-Star Game in San Diego, he's got the type of numbers that All-Stars typically boast.
The 30-year-old righty is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA in 34 games. Brach has struck out 50 batters in 42 2/3 innings, and his ERA ranks eighth among all Major League relievers entering Monday.
"Whether or not he even gets on the All-Star team is irrelevant, because to us, he's been one of the best guys in the game," Britton said. "He deserves it, but it's not always the case, especially for relievers, it's a challenge. I think the biggest thing for me is we know how good he is. He doesn't have to be an All-Star or someone doesn't have to put him on the All-Star team for us to know that he's an All-Star."
The drive for Brach to reach this level started even before his conversation with his brother. After the 2013 season, the Padres designated Brach for assignment.
"I knew I was better than that," Brach said. "I knew I could help somebody win. I think it was more motivation than anything else."
So he got to work. Brach lost weight and began to try to prove himself when he got his chance with the Orioles.
After pitching to a 2.72 ERA in 2015, he's shined this season by attacking the zone with all three of his pitches. And with O'Day sidelined since June 3, he's taken on the setup role on many nights for the O's.
Without O'Day in the 'pen, Brach has thrown 13 innings, allowing just two runs while striking out 19.
"You hope that guys we've played against have taken notice," Britton said. "That's the biggest thing you're hoping for, because if it was up to guys in here, I think we know that we would send him to the All-Star game."
Brach's fate isn't up to him. But a trip to San Diego with the league's best would mean a lot to Brach, who's had his eyes set on the All-Star Game for the past year.
"If I'm not, obviously I understand," Brach said. "But I think the numbers kind of speak for themselves. Hopefully in these coming weeks something good will come of it."
Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.