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Braves' Teheran living up to previous hype

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If the Braves went just on Grapefruit League results, Julio Teheran would be the pitcher deserving of an opening day start against Philadelphia on April 1 in Atlanta.

That won't happen, of course. Teheran is the Braves' fifth starter, not No. 1 in the rotation like Tim Hudson. But the 22-year-old native of Colombia has certainly won converts this spring.

Teheran, officially announced as part of the rotation Thursday, looked nothing like one of the top pitching prospects in baseball last spring and most of last season with Class AAA Gwinnett. Now he definitely does.

In five spring starts, the right-hander has a 1.35 ERA and has allowed just seven hits in 20 innings while striking out 25 and walking six.

"It's what we had hoped for," said Braves general manager Frank Wren, who traded away Tommy Hanson and Randall Delgado while making room for Teheran in the rotation.

That was quite a vote of confidence after Teheran went from the International League's outstanding pitcher in 2011 to one with a 5.08 ERA in 2012.

But Wren continued to believe in Teheran's talent.

"Only exception was the first four months of last season," the GM said. "Otherwise, he's been exceptional."

Teheran encouraged the Braves with his work in the Dominican Winter League, allowing just two hits over 16 innings in his final three outings, and it has carried over to this spring.

"Sometimes failure is a good teacher," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the turnaround.

"I've been pitching, not throwing (like last year)," Teheran said. "That's the difference. I feel like I have more confidence."

Teheran hadn't been told he had a spot in the rotation locked up until Thursday, but it was a foregone conclusion.

"I'm waiting on them to tell me," Teheran had said of his most recent start Sunday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie. "I'm excited."

Teheran is tentatively scheduled to start against the Chicago Cubs on the opening weekend of the season.

Hudson will start the opener April 1 against Philadelphia at Turner Field, with Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen following him against the Phillies. Mike Minor is set to pitch the series opener against the Cubs at home on April 5.

Teheran showed how far he's come with his maturity on the mound against the Mets.

He allowed a leadoff homer, a long out and a well-hit double to the first three batters. But instead of caving in, he bowed up. He allowed just one hit the rest of the way in his six-inning outing.

"He settled down and did a nice job," Gonzalez said. "He's been really impressive the way he's been handling himself."

Teheran, who will make his next start on Saturday against Houston, hasn't had issues in any of this five outings, and that is a rarity for Braves starters this spring.

The only negative is that he has allowed two homers. But that is a far cry from his struggles with the long ball last spring, when he allowed nine homers in 16 innings.

Teheran pitched two hitless innings against Pittsburgh on Feb. 24 with two strikeouts, then allowed just a homer in three innings while striking out five against Washington on March 1.

Teheran worked his way up to four innings against Detroit on March 7, giving up three hits and striking out five. Then came his best start yet.

Teheran didn't allow a hit over five innings againat St. Louis on March 12, striking out six and walking two.

Against the Mets, he fanned seven and walked two, getting his pitch count up to 86.

"He might be penciled in as five, but if he continues to keep pitching like he has been he'll rise in the ranks pretty quickly," Wren said of Teheran's spot in the rotation.