LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – To the surprise of perhaps no one who’s followed the Braves lately, Julio Teheran will be their opening-day starter for the third consecutive season.
The team made official Monday what had been obvious since the December day the Braves traded Shelby Miller, who would’ve been the only possible option for the opening-day assignment. With Miller gone, Teheran was the only returning Braves starter with more than 20 career starts.
When the 25-year-old former All-Star faces Washington’s Max Scherzer in the April 4 opener at Turner Field, Teheran will become the first Braves pitcher to make three consecutive opening-day starts since Derek Lowe in 2009-2011. Only two Atlanta-era Braves have started four in a row: Greg Maddux (1993-1996) and Rick Mahler (1985-1988).
Bud Norris will start Game 2 against the Nationals on April 6, and Matt Wisler starts the third game April 8, a home-series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves have an unusual first-week schedule, with days off between the first and second games and between the second and third games.
They haven’t decided on their fourth and fifth starters.
For Teheran, starting opening day is no less special the third time than it was the first.
“Still an honor to be back (starting) on the first day of the season,” said the Colombian right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in opening-day starts at Milwaukee in 2014 and at Miami in 2015. “I’m excited this time for it to be at home.
“I want to get a win. That’s the way we want to start a year, that would be a good push for my team and that’s what we want to get, the first win.”
Teheran is 40-30 with a 3.44 ERA in 103 games (100 starts) over three full seasons and parts of two others, He made the National League All-Star team in 2014, when he finished 14-13 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in a career-high 231 innings.
He struggled on the road for much of 2015 en route to an 11-8 record and 4.04 ERA in 200 2/3 innings (33 starts). Teheran restored his confidence by producing a 3.24 ERA in his last 17 starts, including a 1.62 ERA and .213 opponents’ average in his final six.
After going 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA in his first 11 road starts, he was 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA in his last five road starts.
The Braves planned to have Kris Medlen start the 2014 opener, but Medlen blew out his elbow in a March 9 spring-training game. Mike Minor was several weeks behind other pitchers due to shoulder tendinitis early in camp, and Brandon Beachy had a season-ending elbow injury the day after Medlen’s.
So they turned to Teheran, who had just 34 major league starts on his resume. He limited the Brewers to two runs and seven hits in six innings, but the Braves were shut out, 2-0. The Braves scored one or no runs while Teheran was in the game in 14 of his 33 starts that season, including 10 of 13 losses.
In last year’s opener at Miami, Teheran allowed one run and eight hits in six innings of a 2-1 Braves win.
Asked what he’d learned from his two opening-day starts, Teheran said, “Don’t put any pressure. It’s opening day. Just try to do what I can for the team, don’t try to do anything else. Just what I can control. Try to do my best to win the game.”
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