LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It took regular visits throughout the offseason for Julio Teheran to get his hair straightened out the way he desired, but between salon trips he had time to keep up with Braves personnel moves and his own new workout regimen. The three-time Braves opening-day starter liked the end results for all of the above.
“Very excited to see a couple of veterans that I think are going to be a couple of great pieces, what we were needing last year,” Teheran said, referring to the additions of elder-statesman starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey. “Now that we’ve got them, we’re trying to take advantage. The young guys, even me, are going to try to take advantage of them and try to learn. And just try to win some more games.”
Tuesday was reporting day for Braves pitchers and catchers, and Teheran, Dickey and other key members of the projected pitching staff all were present and went through informal workouts at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Colon didn’t stop by to work out, but he’s the last guy the Braves would be concerned about, given his record of reliability and durability.
The first official pitchers and catchers workout is Wednesday.
Teheran, who turned 26 in January, was a 2-year-old in Colombia when Colon signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Teheran and Colon, who turns 44 in May, both were National League All-Stars last season.
“Oh, I’ve watched him since I was a kid,” Teheran said, smiling. “I have talked to him a couple of times. I did last year at the All-Star game. He’s a cool guy. He’s kind of fun to watch and a great person to learn from. I think he’s going to be great for us.”
By “us” he meant the Braves in general and pitchers in particular — none more than young Latin pitchers, who’ll get to spend a lot of time around a pitcher who needs only 13 wins to become the winningest Latin American-born pitcher in major league history.
Teheran, Colon and a third veteran starter added by the Braves, Jaime Garcia, all could miss part of spring training for the World Baseball Classic. Teheran will be joined on the Colombia team by fellow All-Star Jose Quintana of the White Sox.
“Oh yeah, we’re excited,” Teheran said. “It’s going to be the first time Colombia is in the WBC, and the whole country is waiting for us to do something.”
As things stand, Teheran figures to face Team USA in Colombia’s WBC pool-play opener March 10 in Miami, while left-hander Quintana likely would start the next day against Canada and its lefty-laden lineup that includes Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Teheran will leave Braves camp March 6 to spend a few days at Colombia’s training camp in Fort Myers. He might only pitch twice in the WBC and miss about a week of Braves camp if Colombia doesn’t make it out of pool play.
Teheran didn’t accelerate his throwing program any in preparation for the WBC, since his innings will be limited in the tournament. His offseason regimen was focused on preparing for the Braves’ season. He worked to increase leg strength and added more running in the hills near his Colombia home, but made it a point not to do much upper-body lifting.
“Just try to keep my arm (normal), I don’t want to get huge or something,” he said. “Just keep it the way.”
His hair, on the other hand, does not look as it did before. Rather, it resembles Prince during the periods when the late pop star wore his hair straightened. Extremely straightened. At least one Braves veteran gave him some good-natured razzing about the coif, saying he couldn’t take Teheran seriously.
“How does it look,” Teheran said, explaining to a reporter that he wanted to be able to part his hair to the side, and that he spent the whole offseason working on it. It is, indeed, now parted to the side, long on top and nearly shaved below the part.
With the additions of Colon and 42-year-old knuckleballer Dickey, Teheran suddenly seems much younger. And he might no longer be the guy that young pitchers will immediately turn to when they need some advice on how to handle a situation. Indeed, Teheran himself might be asking such questions now of the two graybeard newcomers.
“It’s nice to have someone older than you,” Teheran said, “so if you have something to learn, something you don’t know, you’ve got a person you can ask who can probably give you advice. … I think he’s going to be great for the Latin guys. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or we get lost. Now we’ll have someone to go to, Bartolo, who we’ll fill more comfortable going to. With somebody else you might now know how to ask him or something. He’s a good guy.”