Last season, Julio Teheran
dominated the International League. He finished with a 15-3 record and 2.55 ERA and was named the league's Most Valuable Pitcher.
So why did he return to Gwinnett for a second season?
One reason was that he didn't pitch well enough in the spring to earn a spot on Atlanta's roster. Another is that the Braves are getting good pitching from most of their starters this year.
But another reason is that there still are things that Teheran, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, can work on to make himself a full-time Major Leaguer.
"He still has a lot to learn," Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. "He can show his age at times, especially when things aren't going his way, and that's something he needs to harness.
"The velocity is still there -- he was throwing 94-96 [miles per hour] the other day. But it wasn't 'quality' 94-96. But that comes with confidence and focus together, and that's something he will get."
Teheran has made four starts for Gwinnett this season and is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA. That's good, but it's not as good as last season, when he had 122 strikeouts over 144 2/3 innings and allowed IL opponents to bat just .232 against him.
Last season, the 21-year-old right-hander led the league in wins, was second in ERA and third among starters in fewest baserunners per nine innings (10.89). He was an easy choice for the IL's mid- and postseason All-Star teams.
Teheran said his early-season goals include improving command of his fastball, trying to develop his pitches and keeping his mechanics sharp.
"I'm trying to do the same things I did last year," Teheran said. "I'm trying to just go about my business.
"I think hitters know me a little better than they did last year. But I don't worry about [results] at this level. I'm working on getting back to the big leagues and I'm working on things to make me better."
Brundage said he isn't worried about Teheran at this point because of the Colombian's youth.
"He had a remarkable year [last year], especially for a guy who is just 21 years old," Brundage said. "I think people forget he is only 21, and that's easy to do when you see what he accomplished and how he dominated this league."
But Brundage also stressed that Teheran needs to take advantage of the chance to earn a spot in the Majors.
"You don't want to let this opportunity get away," the manager said. "I told him he needs to prove to [the Braves] that they made the wrong decision [to send him down]. Prove to them now that you are ready."
Middlebrooks mashing: When Toledo's Brad Eldred was promoted to Detroit, Pawtucket's Will Middlebrooks took over the mantle as the IL's most feared hitter. Middlebrooks leads all active league players in homers (nine), RBIs (27), hits (31), slugging percentage (.741), total bases (63) and extra-base hits (13). He's batting .365 in 22 games.
Workin' for Berken: Don't let the 0-0 record of Norfolk's Jason Berken fool you. The 28-year-old right-hander has put together four strong starts for the Tides, posting a 1.35 ERA. He has allowed 19 hits over 20 innings, walking seven while fanning 14 and allowing two earned runs. Berken has suffered through a pair of blown saves, and several low-scoring contests have kept him without a win.
He said it: "I landed at JFK [Airport], drove right next to Citi Field and went, 'Man I should be going there instead of going to [independent] ball.' ... [Then Mets director of player development] Adam Wogan called me and said, 'Do you want to play?' I said, 'Yeah, I want to play.' So I go to Double-A, unpack my stuff, then I get called up to Triple-A before I can take [batting practice] with them. I played that night." -- Buffalo OF Dustin Martin to the Buffalo News on the series of events that led him to the Herd. In his first home game on April 28, Martin homered in his first at-bat to lead the Bisons to a 4-3 victory over his former team, Rochester.