Julio Teheran Named Braves Opening Day Starter

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A familiar face will take the mound when the Braves open the season against the Phillies on March 28th. Right-hander Julio Teheran has been named the opening day starter for the sixth consecutive season. The veteran got the nod after injuries limited the workload of other returning starters this spring. He will tie Hall of Famer, Warren Spahn for most opening day starts when he takes the mound in Citizens Bank Park.

Unexpected Role

Teheran has been much maligned, with many expecting the two-time All-Star to have been traded each of the last two off-seasons. No trade market developed, and Teheran entered the spring uncertain of his role this season. With so many young, talented pitchers ready to join the rotation, a spot was not guaranteed. When the Braves faced the Dodgers last postseason, Teheran was not in the rotation and made only one appearance in relief.

The Braves can part ways with Teheran after the season by virtue of a $1 million buy out. If they elect to keep him, they would owe him $12 million in 2020. The influx of young pitchers and the hefty price tag make it likely that Teheran is auditioning for other teams this season.

Injuries Thrust Teheran into the Spotlight

Mike Foltynewicz was the obvious choice to be the opening day starter after taking big steps forward in 2018. Early in spring training, he was sidelined after experiencing elbow soreness. He threw off the mound for the first time since February 24th on Sunday. The reports are positive, but the setback means he won’t be ready by opening day.

A shoulder injury this spring has limited Kevin Gausman and spoiled his chance to claim the opening day role. Gausman is expected to pitch five innings in a minor league game on Tuesday and is working his way back. He has not been sharp in two outings since being sidelined earlier in the spring and couldn’t be counted on to be ready by opening day either.

Another pitcher who made strides last season and should have been considered for the role is Sean Newcomb. Newcomb has lacked command in four Grapefruit League outings though, likely taking himself out of consideration. In twelve innings, the left-hander has allowed seven earned runs while walking ten batters. He will have to regain his 2018 form or risk being passed by one of the many emerging young pitching prospects in the organization.

What to Expect From Teheran

Teheran has been here before and will not be daunted by the bright spotlight of opening day. In his previous five opening day starts, he is 1-1 with three no-decisions. Last season, when the Braves opened at home against the Phillies, Teheran tossed 5.2 innings allowing four earned runs. He did not figure in the decision as the Braves won in walk-off fashion thanks to Nick Markakis.

Overall, Teheran has fared well against the Phillies, going 9-6 with a 3.65 ERA. He has pitched particularly well at Citizens Bank Park registering six wins against only two losses.

Early in camp, Teheran began working exclusively from the stretch and credits the change with improvement in his command. He also added ten pounds of muscle this off-season and manager Brian Snitker described him as being “more powerful” this spring.

Entering spring training all the talk centered around who would be the odd man out in the starting rotation. A few short weeks later, and a handful of injuries later and the team is fortunate to have the depth nurse some key pitchers back to health without panicking and overpaying for a mediocre stop gap. Baseball is a six month grind and the team has plenty of arms to compete for another NL East title.

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