JUPITER, Fla. – He’s the top-rated pitching prospect in baseball and could be the ace of the Braves’ rotation before long. But on Monday, Julio Teheran was just a really talented kid not quite sure when he was going in a game.
The 20-year-old Colombian made his much-anticipated debut in the seventh inning of a 10-inning Grapefruit League loss to the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, where most of the fans probably weren’t aware how special was this particular late-innings “reliever.”
Teheran, a reliever only this spring, struck out the first batter he faced, ex-Brave Joe Thurston. He topped out at 96 mph with his fastball while working one scoreless inning and giving up two singles.
His debut had been delayed because of back spasms that slowed him earlier in camp.
“In the bullpen he could not wait to go out there,” said Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez. “He thought he was the second pitcher. I told him, no, you’re in the 7th or 8th inning. He said no, I’m ready to go. This was the first time he’s come out of the bullpen, too. And all of a sudden that [Marlins’ sixth] was a quick inning for them.
“I was worried he was going in there without being ready. But he was ready.”
Teheran struck out Thurston with a fastball on the outer edge of the plate. Ozzie Martinez followed with a single to left field. Brett Hayes hit a fielder’s choice grounder that could’ve been a double play if it had been handled cleanly.
Logan Morrison singled through right side of the infield with two outs, and former Phillie Greg Dobbs grounded out to first base to end the inning.
Teheran was glad to get his first game out of the way.
“Very emotional,” he said, with Perez translating for him. “I wanted to do everything good. It’s difficult for me, different because I’ve never come out of the bullpen.”
On the strikeout: “That felt very good,” he said. “I got relaxed after that.”
Teheran was the last of the Braves’ elite pitching prospects to debut this spring, after Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and rising left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.
Delgado had two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning Monday in his third appearance.
“Both were composed and ahead of hitters, for the most part,” pitching coach Roger McDowell said of Delgado and Teheran. “Delgado was ahead, used his changeup and breaking ball. I thought both of them did well.
“You never know how they’re going to react. You’re hoping that they have success when they go out there, that they’re able to throw and command the strike zone. And for the most part, they’ve all done it. Julio’s first time was today, and he was able to do it.
“It’s nice to see our young kids are coming up and are not overwhelmed by pitching here in spring training against major league hitters or in this kind of atmosphere.”
Teheran’s fastballs were clocked at 92-96 mph, and he made that velocity look easy.
“They all have,” McDowell said. “Vizcaino, Teheran, Oberholtzer, Delgado, [Juan] Abreu — even though it’s his second camp he’s made some adjustments. They’ve been having positive results. It’s nice to see.”