Delgado, Teheran battling for spot with Braves

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With Tim Hudson not available, either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado seems assured of a spot in the Atlanta rotation at the start of the season.

The loser of the battle will return to Gwinnett. In Teheran's case especially, that might be hard to take. After all, what more does he have to prove in Class AAA?

The native of Colombia was 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA for the G-Braves last season and was named the International League pitcher of the year. But nothing comes guaranteed in an organization stacked with pitching like the Braves.

Left-hander Mike Minor hasn't allowed a run in nine innings over three starts, solidifying his standing in the rotation. That leaves right-handers Teheran and Delgado fighting for the fifth spot.

Teheran, 21, allowed six homers and Delgado, 22, gave up two on a wind-blown day against the Tigers in their spring debuts. But both have pitched more like the top prospect they are since.

Each worked four innings on Wednesday night against Washington, with encouraging if not eye-popping results.

"I thought Delgado did a terrific job of mixing up his pitches, and Julio did the same thing," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said afterward. "They're both coming on. They really are. It's a good competition."

Each started with three scoreless innings before being touched up. Teheran allowed two homers, the first after a walk, in Washington's three-run fourth. Delgado surrendered two runs in the eighth after a walk and a wild pitch.

Delgado, who ended up getting the 6-5 victory when the Braves rallied in the bottom of the inning, has a 9.00 ERA. That's just a little better than Teheran's 11.00, with both greatly inflated by rough first appearances.

Teheran and Delgado are now scheduled to work five innings in their fourth outings of the spring. One will likely start Monday against the Cardinals, with the other working in a minor league game for the G-Braves that day so he can stay on schedule.

Teheran appeared in five games with Atlanta last year, going 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA. Delgado, who spent the first half the last year with Class AA Mississippi before being promoted to Gwinnett, was 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in seven games.

Baseball America ranked Teheran at No. 5 and Delgado at No. 46 in its list of Top 100 prospects. MLB.com had Teheran at No. 4 and Delgado, a native of Panama, at No. 42.

Minor, 24, isn't ranked as highly as a prospect, but he has shown this spring that he has the stuff to get out major league hitters now that he has picked up a little more experience.

The 2009 first-round draft choice out of Vanderbilt has allowed just five hits in his three spring starts while striking out seven and walking four in his nine innings. The Cardinals got only one hit off him in four innings on Tuesday.

Minor made 16 starts for Gwinnett and 15 with Atlanta a year ago, going 5-3 with a 4.14 ERA in his second major league stint. He was 3-2 with a 5.98 ERA in nine games for Atlanta during the 2010 season.

Until Hudson returns, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson will head the Atlanta rotation. In addition to Minor, Teheran and Delgado, Kris Medlen could also be called on if needed. He made it back last September from reconstructive elbow surgery and could swing between the bullpen and rotation.

Jurrjens, who made his third start of the spring Thursday in Clearwater against the Phillies, is healthy after missing the end of 2011 season with knee problems. Shoulder woes curtailed Hanson's year, making him a comeback player this spring as well.

Hanson was set back after suffering a concussion in an auto mishap at the start of camp, but he is slated to take the mound for the second time tonight against Baltimore.

Hudson, who had back surgery, was cleared to pitch this week and threw his first bullpen session on Wednesday. He is expected to be ready to pitch in May. Then the Atlanta rotation will get even more crowded.