Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz is a sports columnist and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Braves also have a Julio question: Is Teheran about to prove his worth?

So about Julio and his contract. Not that Julio, the other one.

Braves pitcher Julio Teheran was 23 years old and had pitched only one full season when the team gave him a six-year, $32.4 million contract extension in 2014. The thinking in committing long-term to a young starter was Teheran had “a chance to be a top part of the rotation guy for a long time,” according to then-general manager Frank Wren. The deal could prove to be a bargain. Or blow up in the team’s face.

Teheran looked like a bargain Sunday. But given his career roller coaster of the last few seasons, we again must ask: Is this an aberration? Because if not, this could be a major boost for the Braves’ rotation.

He threw six innings of no-hit ball before leaving Sunday’s game against San Diego with a cramp. The Braves won 4-1 and, at 42-29, are 13 games above .500 for the first time this season. Braves’ starters have a combined ERA of 1.00 in the last 11 home games (eight earned runs in 72 innings) and hold  the third-lowest ERA (3.24) in the majors.

(The season is not yet half over. But after 71 games, the oft-heard, “It’s still early” warnings are eroding.)

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Teheran reported to spring training this season, knowing he needed to ease concerns about his future. He had two All-Star seasons with ERAs of 2.89 (2014) and 3.21 (2016). But the odd-year seasons weren’t impressive: 4.04 and 4.49 in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

This season has been a mix. He went on the disabled list with a thumb contusion following his previous start, in which he allowed three home runs in four innings against the Padres. He allowed nine earned runs with 10 hits, six walks and four home runs in his first two starts (which totaled only eight innings). He allowed six runs in a home start against Miami last month.

But there also have been several good ones. Sunday was a really good one: zero hits, zero runs and 11 strikeouts in six innings, with his velocity at 92 miles per hour. He’s 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA for the season. He has allowed a staff-high 14 homers.

Why is this important now? Because Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will have a decision to make on Teheran: keep or deal? For as much attention that has been given his evaluation of inherited prospects, he’s also evaluating inherited veterans.

Teheran is making $8 million this season but his contract jumps to $11 million in 2019, which would make him the second-highest paid Brave behind Freddie Freeman (with Brandon McCarthy and Nick Markakis coming off the books).

There’s a team option for $12 million in 2020, which the Braves can buy their way out of for $1 million. So this season likely will go a long way toward determining his future in Atlanta.

The starting rotation has been better than expected this season, led by Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz. A veteran presence moving forward would help. But it’s probably too early to assume Teheran is there yet.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.

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