When the Orioles acquired right-handed reliever Brad Brach from the San Diego Padres last season, it was a move that didn't garner much attention.
Brach, 28, raised some eyebrows with a strong spring training, but he was one of the Orioles' final cuts before Opening Day.
But by the end of the season, he was playing a key role for the major league club, providing important length in the bullpen. And it was a breakthrough year for Brach, who was 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA and eight holds over 62 1/3 innings, as well.
"It was an awesome season," Brach said earlier this month. "And personally I think it was the first time I think I was able to establish myself with the team. It felt good knowing I had a little bit of a part of what we did last year."
Brach will go into spring training having established himself in the Orioles bullpen, but it doesn't mean he will head to Sarasota, Fla., thinking he won't have to compete for a spot.
"It's one of those things where I try not to get too comfortable anyway because I've had that position before with the Padres when I've had a good year and then I came back the next year and just didn't really pitch very well," Brach said. "So I wanted to make sure I come back next year the same as last year. I'm going to treat it like I'm going to win a spot and that's the way I always treat it."
Brach spent the first month of last season at Triple-A Norfolk before earning a callup in early May. That stint lasted just two outings as he allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings. But he was back to stay by the middle of the month, and the four scoreless relief innings he gave the Orioles on May 21 in Pittsburgh showed he could be a valuable multiple-inning reliever.
"It was that one game against Pittsburgh," he said. "I can honestly point to it and know it was the turning point for my career. Four innings, I know it was no runs, but I don't know what else I did, but just going out there for four innings and shutting down an offense like that that was pretty much the turning point."
Brach said his confidence grew from there. The faith pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti showed in him also made a difference.
"Just to trust myself," Brach said. "I've been told that the last three or four seasons, but Dom and Dave did a great job of giving me confidence and just telling me to trust what I have and go out there and pitch like I know how I can."
Now that he has proven to the Orioles and himself that he can stick in the major leagues, Brach said he hopes to earn a more prominent role in the bullpen in 2015.
"That's what I'm hoping for," Brach said. "That's all I can ever hope for, to kind of move yourself up, establish yourself and then get a little bit of a bigger role. That's pretty much what I'm hoping for, but whatever they need me to do is what I'm going to do."