Julio Teheran was relegated to mop-up duty in the postseason, leading many to assume his Braves tenure was expiring.
Yet on Monday, he was named the team’s opening day starter for the sixth consecutive year. The Braves open the season March 28 in Philadelphia.
“Where we’re at, how he’s throwing, everything that’s transpired, he’s a natural fit right now,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been through it. He’s been really good on opening days, too.”
It would’ve been seen as a far-fetched premise even a month ago. The man left for dead in October will tie the legendary Warren Spahn for most consecutive opening day nods in franchise history.
“I was happy when they told me,” Teheran said. “It’s the sixth time they’ve told me. It’s something that obviously you have to work for and I’m glad they made that decision and put me in that spot. ... It’s fun to be in that spot for this team.”
Teheran owns a 2.73 ERA on opening day. He’s also had success at Citizens Bank Park, where he owns a 3.11 ERA with a .214 average against in nine starts.
Philadelphia is a memorable place for the right-hander. He made his major-league debut there in 2011. He tossed the first complete-game shutout in the ballpark’s history.
“It’s special, he said. “Every time (I pitch on opening day) it’s special. But this one will be different. Phillies park is where I made my debut. I have memories there. It’s fun to go out there and remember when I came up.”
Teheran may soon own baseball’s longest active opening day start streak. Felix Hernandez’s 10-year run for the Mariners will end this season. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is unlikely to start opening day due to injury, which would conclude his eight-year streak.
And so with the Braves snake-bitten with ailments and stocked with young pitchers not quite ready to take the ball Game 1, Teheran was the logical call.
He’s still here. Through a healthy dose of criticism and trade rumors, Teheran — for however long — retains a spot in the rotation. And when the Braves line up for the first time in 2019, he’ll throw the first pitch.
“We’re lucky to have him,” Snitker said.