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Julio Teheran figures to be Atlanta's fifth starter in 2013.
After struggling through the 2012 season, right-hander Julio Teheran got himself back on track over the offseason in the Dominican Republic, thanks in large part to a meeting with childhood idol Pedro Martinez.
While pitching in winter ball, Teheran had the opportunity to meet Martinez and gain valuable insight on what it takes to compete mentally rather than just physically. With his confidence restored, mechanical adjustments were also made to the young righty's delivery.
Teheran, 22, was just 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 131 Triple-A innings last season, while his strikeout rate dipped from 7.6 to 6.7 SO/9. Much of that can be traced to attacking hitters with a somewhat one-dimensional approach and becoming too reliant on velocity rather than command.
Equipped with a game plan from Martinez that included conserving his energy in order to last longer in starts, Teheran has been showing the ability to pitch rather than simply throw this spring.
Picking and choosing the times to reach back for something extra seems like a simple concept, but consider that last season was the first time in Teheran's career than his best was routinely not good enough to translate into winning efforts.
While he is capable of peppering the strike zone with a mid-90s heat, Teheran has developed a two-seam fastball with sinking action. That addition has, in turn, made his changeup and breaking ball more effective. It has also allowed him to work comfortably in the low-90s throughout his appearances this spring.
Veteran starter Tim Hudson told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he has been impressed with Teheran's refined approach this spring.
“He’s really pounding the strike zone, and his two-seamer has really looked good,” said Hudson, who’s had a long, prosperous career relying on the sinker (two-seamer). “That’s something he’s been working on. He’s using it to both sides of the plate. I think that’s a great pitch for him because he doesn’t have to be so precise with it – it’s a contact pitch.”
His March 17 start against the New York Mets was a fine example of how far Teheran has come in roughly one calender year. He surrendered a leadoff home run among three hard-hit balls to open the game, but stayed composed and shut the Mets' bats down over six innings to earn the victory.
It is that kind of performance that has earned him consistent praise this spring—and the opportunity to join the Atlanta rotation.
General manager Frank Wren was able to deal both Randall Delgado and Arodys Vizcaino to fill other needs for the team in large part because of Teheran’s track record and projectable, frontline stuff.
Atlanta committed itself to Teheran for the opening months of 2013 at the very least. He will be a substantial building block if he is able to carry his Grapefruit League success into the regular season.