PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27: Starting pitcher Julio Teheran #49 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)
Photo: Brian Garfinkel
Photo: Brian Garfinkel

Braves make All-Star case for Teheran

“I don’t know if I can count five pitchers on my hand that I think are having better years than him,” said Gerald Laird, who caught Teheran’s latest gem Friday night against the Phillies. “It’s one of those things where you hope the league is seeing what we see, and sometimes it’s not like that. But honestly, I think he’s going to go. The league has seen him enough where, the numbers he’s putting up, they speak for themselves.”

Teheran is fifth in the National League with a 2.34 ERA. He’s second behind Johnny Cueto in innings pitched (119). He’s third with a 0.95 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) behind Cueto and Adam Wainwright. And he’s tied for seventh in strikeouts with 103.

As much as the numbers say about Teheran’s growth, Laird also sees it in how he handles himself on the mound and in his game plan. Friday night, Teheran had a different idea than Laird for how he wanted to pitch to Jimmy Rollins. He explained it to Laird and then executed it by retiring Rollins four times, including twice on strikeouts.

“He understands the game,” said Laird, who has caught Teheran during his first two full major league seasons. “He knows how to pitch inside now. He’s got command of four pitches and he’s starting to understand how to pitch. He’s reading swings. He is understanding how to go after guys and what their strengths and weaknesses are. He’s not out there just throwing the ball. You can see he’s setting up guys with his sequences and that’s big for a pitcher.”

Laird also liked the way Teheran approached John Mayberry Jr. Friday night, battling him for 11 pitches – without giving him something over the heart of the plate. He eventually struck him out swinging at a fastball up and away to leave two runners on and help preserve a 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park.

“He didn’t give in,” Laird said. “He kept making pitches and maybe a couple years ago he gives in, with a pitch over the middle of the plate and gets beat. But he kept making pitches and moving the ball around the zone, and that’s what the good ones do. They use those guys that are aggressive to their advantage and he did that.”

Teheran grew up in Cartagena, Colombia watching the All-Star game as a young kid. He idolized All-Star pitchers like Pedro Martinez and former Braves John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Making his first All-Star game would be important to him, but he’s trying to focus on his business as usual.

“Since I was a little kid, I’ve been watching the All-Star game, and that’s something big,” Teheran said. “That’s the best. It would be an honor if I went too. But I’m just trying to do my things and forget about that. I don’t put that on my mind because that’s a lot of pressure.’

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