Throughout Spring Training and in his season opener, Julio Teheran didn't look like a pitcher touted as one of the best prospects in baseball. But on Thursday, he reappeared.
After surrendering three runs in 1 2/3 frames in his first start of the year, MLB.com's No. 4 prospect gave up just three hits over five scoreless innings en route to the win as the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves routed the Durham Bulls, 7-1.
Teheran fanned four and walked two, though he also hit two batters. Overall, the 21-year-old right-hander threw 50 of 85 pitches for strikes.
"I thought he did a real nice job utilizing all of his pitches," Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed said. "His curveball was the best it's been in a while. He's finally starting to settle in. His fastball was really good. He hit 98 a couple times and sat right around 94, 95. ... He made some good adjustments from last outing, mostly keeping the ball down in the zone."
Teheran did not work a perfect inning on the night, but he also let only one hitter reach second base. He ran into the most trouble in the first, when he yielded a one-out double to Tim Beckham and a two-out walk to Matt Mangini before striking out Leslie Anderson to end the frame.
"I thought his control was pretty good," Reed said. "If you're missing but not missing by much -- maybe you're missing by a couple inches here and there -- you still have control, you just don't have great command.
"But if you're asking a guy to keep the ball down and he's able to hit the corners -- the catcher sets up on the outer half and doesn't move the glove -- it still may be a ball but he's not really missing. You've got to feel good about that because last outing, he was all over the place. We did a lot of work between starts and it paid off tonight."
Teheran also allowed two baserunners in the fifth, though not at the same time. Nevin Ashley led off the frame with a walk, but Teheran picked him off moments later. He then issued a free pass to Kyle Hudson, but generated groundouts from Will Rhymes and Beckham to end his day.
The pickoff was one of two for Teheran in the contest, as he also got Beckham after hitting him with a pitch in the third. Between the Majors and Minors last year, the native of Colombia picked off 15 batters.
"He's a very good athlete, he has quick feet and he studies the running game," Reed said. "He observes how guys take their leads. He's very aware of the baserunners and how to keep them close."
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2007, Teheran tied for the International League lead with a 2.55 ERA in 144 2/3 innings last year. He scuffled when called up to the Majors, however, posting a 5.03 ERA in 19 2/3 frames.
This spring, he had a chance to win a temporary spot in the Braves' rotation while starter Tim Hudson recovers from back surgery, but he put together a 9.37 ERA in five outings. Fellow prospect Randall Delgado did not perform much better, compiling a 7.89 ERA in six games, but nonetheless won the job.
Despite Teheran's struggles at times, Reed still sees plenty of potential for him this year and further down the line.
"He'll get his consistency down and do the things that we all think he's capable of doing," Reed said. "I think he'll get there at some point this year and he'll probably be more ready than he was.
"Last year, he had a tremendous year here at Triple-A and went up to the big leagues. ... He did OK, but I still don't think he pitched as well as he pitched when he was at Triple-A. It might've been new for him getting up there and getting jitters, but I think the next time he goes back, he's going to be a different guy."