Top pitching prospect Teheran impressing already

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – He’s rated one of the top three pitching prospects in baseball, and Braves right-hander Julio Teheran made a few believers in the opening week of spring training.

The Colombian right-hander drew attention while throwing batting practice.

“I usually don’t like to buy into all the hype, but I was pretty impressed,” veteran backup catcher David Ross said. “When he located – and he did it on probably 10 of the 30 pitches he threw – it was, in my opinion, pretty unhittable.”

Ross was referring to pitches thrown exactly where Teheran wanted them. A hard thrower who only turned 20 three weeks ago, Teheran has what scouts call "electric stuff," coupled with pinpoint command of three pitches.

“Real live [arm],” new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after seeing the organization’s top prospect for the first time. “Lotta, lotta life.”

Teheran is a non-roster invitee to spring training and isn’t a candidate for a major league job out of camp. Because of his age and inexperience – he’s not pitched above Double-A -- the Braves are likely to have him spend another season in the minor leagues.

General manager Frank Wren has not ruled out the possibility that Teheran or Randall Delgado, another top prospect in his first major league spring training, could be called up during the season if the Braves have a rash of pitching injuries.

For now, they will work to make an impression while they’re in big-league camp.

“You hear all the hype all the time about guys,” Ross said. “It’s like with [right fielder Jason] Heyward -- you don’t want to give them credit till you watch them perform. But [after seeing Heyward last spring] it was like, OK, you’ve got it. Hats off.”

Ross got a similar feeling while catching Teheran's batting-practice session. Among the hitters he faced was outfielder Brent Clevlen, who’s spent parts of four seasons with Detroit and Atlanta.

“He told Clevlen what was coming and I think he was going to swing at one of the fastballs,” Ross said. “He threw him three fastballs, but I don’t think he could swing. It was in my mitt before I could really think. He went to swing and I think he was like, ‘Not only is it by me, it’s painted.’"

Clevlen didn’t dispute that account.

“The first three pitches I saw were just right there, knee-high on the black, kind of away. I wasn’t ready for that. Not this early.”

Wren not concerned about defense

The Braves’ 126 errors in 2010 were only one off the league high, and winter acquisition Dan Uggla’s 34 errors in the past two seasons were the most among major league second baseman.

The Braves moved All-Star second baseman Martin Prado to left field, which should improve outfield defense. As for the infield, with Uggla and surgically repaired third baseman Chipper Jones ...

“At the end of the day, I don’t think errors contribute a great deal to losses,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “I mean, that [126 errors] is still less than an error a game. And it depends on when the errors happens. With nobody on, you boot a ground ball and then you get a double play, it’s an error. But all errors aren’t created equal.

“I think that’s much overblown. When you put together your team, it’s the full contribution of players. What they do, whether it’s running the bases, or offensively, there’s lots of other things that guys can do, which add to your ballclub.”

“That’s really not a concern of ours. I know it’s great blog fodder, but it’s not a concern.”

That said, defense will be stressed

New manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves do about 15 minutes of defensive work before batting practice at every home game. It’s the same thing his Marlins teams did when Gonzalez managed Florida for 3-1/2 seasons before he was fired in June.

The Braves did the drills at the beginning of Saturday’s workout.

St. Louis has a similar home pregame routine, and Gonzalez said some other teams have done it, too. It’s an abbreviated version of the old-school infield all teams once took before games.

In recent years, the Braves and other teams rarely did much pregame defensive work.

“Just part of preparation, to make sure we have those defensive plays down,” Gonzalez said. “I guess the plays that we can control. You can’t control the broken-bat single that falls behind the first baseman, but on bunt defenses, first-and-thirds, cutoffs and relays, guys are supposed to be in the right spot. We’re going to work on those things.”