The last time Julio Teheran took the mound for the Braves, he looked very much like a rookie – giving up six runs on eight hits before getting pulled in the third inning in Game 3 of the division series against the Dodgers, his first ever playoff game.
On a warm and breezy Saturday afternoon in Viera, he looked more like the up-and-coming young ace who just signed a six-year $32.4 million contract extension. Teheran pitched two scoreless innings against the Nationals in his spring training debut.
“I felt good out there,” Teheran said afterward. “I was excited to come back on the mound and (I) did what I expected, just throw strikes.”
He threw 21 of his 30 pitches for strikes and saw the fruits of work he’s been doing to continue refining his breaking pitches. He recorded his one strikeout of the day by getting Anthony Rendon to freeze, checking his swing, on a slider away.
The slider is a pitch Teheran started using more often last season, after relying largely on a dominant fastball during his rise through the minors.
“I’ve been working on it,” Teheran said. “Even in the offseason I’ve been trying to perfect my slider and my curveball. I think this year is going to be different because I have the experience with them, with my slider.”
Teheran threw strike one to six of the eight batters he faced.
He threw eight of 10 pitches for strikes in a perfect first inning. Bryce Harper’s lineout to Freddie Freeman was the only ball hit in the air.
The Nationals then worked a couple of two-out, two-strike singles off Teheran in the second inning but he got Steven Souza Jr. to ground out to Andrelton Simmons to end the threat.
Teheran will face the Nationals again his next time out Thursday at Disney. The Braves are playing their NL East nemesis three times in a six-day span and five times in a 12-day span. That’s nothing new for Teheran who went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts last season against the Nationals. He’s not going to change his plans regardless.
“I just want to do what I’m going to do - even in the season,” Teheran said. “Just go out there and compete, and if I’ve got to show everything I have (I will).”
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