As the next in line, River Cats right-hander Brad Peacock knows the drill.
Remain patient and perfect that fourth pitch. Develop consistency and sustain durability. And somehow try to forget that the A's are only 80 miles away.
Most of the A's starting pitchers don't last more than a few seasons, either because of injury or financial constraints that keep general manager Billy Beane in a constant pursuit of the next shrewd (and cost-cutting) trade.
Peacock, obtained in the offseason swap that sent All-Star Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals, already has seen former River Cats Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross added to an Oakland staff that includes Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and his close friend Tommy Milone.
"Brad has three good (pitches) that are ready for the major leagues, and we're developing a fourth," River Cats pitching coach Scott Emerson said of the A's top minor league pitching prospect. "When he becomes consistent, he'll force their (A's) hand, too."
Though admittedly eager for a return to the major leagues, Peacock, 24, understands the need to master that fourth pitch a cutter and curbs his restlessness by working and training diligently, and by keeping good company. He is seldom alone. His journey through the minor leagues, in fact, is a Peacock family adventure.
His father, Jerry, a retired police officer from Greenacres, Fla., has followed him for the past six years to Hagerstown, Md.; Burlington, Vt.; Potomac, Va.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and now Sacramento.
And we're not talking first-class accommodations. Initially, Jerry Peacock drove an old pickup truck and would crawl into the back seat to sleep. He upgraded to a van that was designed to haul landscape equipment, substituting a mattress for a lawn mower. He relied on his law enforcement skills when trolling for overnight parking places at ballparks, retail centers or area motels.
When Brad's mother, Jay, quit her job as a bank teller and joined the family traveling squad late last season, the van was replaced with a state-of-the-art motor home that can be easily spotted at Raley Field or in the back of an extended-stay hotel near the ballpark.
"We were going to drive to Tucson for the weekend games, but it's 868 miles," Jerry Peacock said, with a booming laugh. "But who's counting? We thought about taking the train, but it takes two days to get there, and we have our 4-year-old grandson (Aiden) with us. So we'll do some sightseeing and get on the Internet to watch Brad pitch (tonight)."
Like most parents, the Peacocks love chatting about a son who fell in love with baseball at first sight/touch. The youngest of three siblings, Brad never slept without his glove and was known to shatter living room furnishings while swinging a bat.
He didn't play other sports his only other sports or recreational interest is fishing and converted from shortstop to pitching near the end of his prep career at Central High in West Palm Beach, Fla. Though he threw only eight pitches during his senior season, the Nationals drafted him in the 41st round in 2006.
"I couldn't hit," Peacock said with a grin. "I couldn't hit anything, but I had a good arm."
Compact and athletic at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he mixes fastballs that reach 95-96 mph with effective curves and changeups. When his career stalled in 2010, he began hiding his pitches and enjoyed dramatic improvement in record and ERA, earning a late-season callup with the Nationals last season.
Then came one of those familiar A's offseason trades, with Beane replenishing his farm system and controlling the team payroll by swapping Gonzalez to the Nationals for Milone, Peacock, pitcher A.J. Cole and River Cats catcher Derek Norris. After Peacock had a forgettable spring, Emerson urged him to add a cutter to his repertoire.
"I needed something that moves around, something that's hard and throws the hitters off," Peacock explained, "and I feel like my command of the cutter is right there. But it's like Emo says, I have to be consistent."
Peacock, 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA, knows if he does his part, an opportunity will materialize.
His father jokingly offers a way to accelerate the process.
"I don't know which one of those other starters I need to whip!" Jerry Peacock said. "Not (Bartolo) Colon, though. You see the way that old guy is pitching?"
Then he hooted again and said he had to turn off his cellphone. He was driving back to the extended-stay motel and had passed his exit. But no problem, he said. He has nothing else to do these days but watch his son play baseball and enjoy life. If you pass one exit, he says, you just take the next one.