The Braves have had an uncanny ability to avoid facing some of the top pitchers in the National League this season. They missed Clayton Kershaw in both series against the Dodgers. They will have faced Matt Harvey once in 19 games against the Mets. And they missed 21-year-old Cuban sensation Jose Fernandez in each of the first four three-game series they played against the Marlins.
That ends Friday night at Turner Field when Fernandez faces Julio Teheran in the weekend series opener against the Marlins.
“I’m a little upset with the Marlins they haven’t shut him down yet,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez joked. “I’m going to have to call (Marlins owner) Jeffrey up and say ‘Mr. Loria, it’s a good time to shut down Fernandez, tomorrow.’”
The Marlins reportedly plan to shut down Fernandez sometime in early September, so Gonzalez is not far off, actually. The Braves might avoid facing Fernandez when they travel to Miami for a four-game series Sept. 9-12. Fernandez is at 152 2/3 innings already, and Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has said the Marlins want to hold him to between 150 and 170 innings.
Gonzalez acknowledges, though, that he’s curious to see the phenom with the upper 90s fastball. Fernandez ranks third in the majors in ERA (2.30) behind Kershaw (1.72), and Harvey (2.27). He is 10-5 with four double-digit strikeout games.
“You follow him,” said Gonzalez, also a native of Cuba. “You read the box scores and you … every time he goes out he’s got a chance to do something really, really special — throw a no-hitter or complete-game shutout. (He’s got) really good stuff, all the pitches, command. For a kid that young, he’s got some presence.”
Gonzalez said he has been impressed with how Fernandez carries himself, and he’s had that confirmed in conversations with Marlins special assistants Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, both Hall of Famers.
“He looks like he just has fun,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got a big smile on his face. Seems like a respectful guy. … I hope he gets a chance to win the rookie of the year. I think him and (Yasiel) Puig are the two favorites right now.”
Fernandez will face the rookie Teheran, who’s having a pretty special season of his own. Teheran is tied with Fernandez for the second-most wins among NL rookie pitchers (10). He ranks fifth among NL rookies in ERA (3.08), second in innings pitched (155) and third in strikeouts (140).
Teheran faced Cardinals rookie standout Shelby Miller in his previous start, in St. Louis, allowing four runs in six innings of a 6-2 loss.
“Who am I pitching against?” Teheran said, with a smile on his face when asked about Friday’s matchup. “I’m just trying to do my thing. I know he’s going to do his thing, so it’s going to be a pretty good game.”
Freeman rests: Freddie Freeman was out of the Braves lineup Thursday night for the first time since July 19, ending a stretch of 36 consecutive starts, with what Gonzalez characterized as a one-game breather for some chronic knee issues.
Freeman has had problems with his patellar tendon, first injuring it in 2010 with Triple-A Gwinnett and again during spring training last year when he suffered a subluxation of his kneecap while picking throws at first base.
“You saw him limping around a little bit yesterday,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got the knee thing that bothers him every once in a while. It’s one of those things that’s going to be nagging. … This is not going to make it go away tomorrow, but it’ll maybe make it feel a little better.”
Freeman, who probably has been the Braves’ most consistent offensive force this season, has no hits in his past 13 at-bats.
“I went in there and watched some video with (hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher), and my balance was a little off,” Freeman said. “I wasn’t centered, so hopefully just take today and get it all figured out and get back out there tomorrow.”
Gonzalez said he decided to go with Joey Terdoslavich over Evan Gattis at first base because of Terdoslavich’s experience there. Terdoslavich played 215 games in the minor leagues at first base, including 68 games in Double-A Mississippi in 2012. Gattis has played 11 games at first in the majors and minors combined.
Walden close: Jordan Walden was running during pregame conditioning Saturday in St. Louis when he felt tightness in his right groin, and to a lesser extent his left groin. The Braves reliever hasn’t pitched since Aug. 21 at New York, when he overpowered Mets hitters with four strikeouts in two perfect innings.
“My groins just tightened up on me,” said Walden, using the plural for an injury that is usually singular, as in one groin muscle or the other. “My right one mainly. Just a hot day, running, it just got me.”
Walden said he has received treatment all week and that his condition has improved every day. He threw a light bullpen session Wednesday without incident and planned to throw again Thursday, after which Gonzalez would talk with pitching coach Roger McDowell to see if Walden was ready to pitch.
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Staff writer David O’Brien contributed to this article.