LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Julio Teheran is the highest rated of Atlanta’s pair of elite starting-pitcher prospects, but Randall Delgado looks like the leader in their race for the last opening in the Braves rotation.
They worked all nine innings of Monday’s 4-3 Grapefruit League loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, with Delgado allowing two runs and three hits in the first five innings and Teheran giving up two runs and five hits in the last four innings.
Delgado had three walks and five strikeouts and gave up both his runs when Matt Carpenter homered on a hanging change-up in the fourth inning.
“I think this guy’s a pretty solid major league pitcher,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the Panamanian right-hander, who went 1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in seven starts last season in his first major league stint. “When you’ve got a kid that’s 22 years old that can command those type of pitches…
“Everything’s pretty sharp. His fastball is good, his curveball is one of the best curveballs I’ve seen, and his change-up is really good.”
Neither Delgado nor Teheran has been dominant this spring, both overshadowed by left-hander Mike Minor’s team-best performance (14 scoreless innings). That’s all but officially earned Minor the No. 5 starter’s job for which they were all competing.
Delgado and Teheran are now presumably vying to be Tim Hudson’s replacement until the veteran returns from back-surgery rehab around May 1. Both prospects have rebounded from alarming, wind-blown outings March 4 against Detroit to pitch well in most innings since.
Delgado has posted a 6.92 ERA in four games (three starts) with 12 hits and 10 earned runs in 13 innings. He has nine walks and 13 strikeouts and has given up two homers.
Teheran has a 9.00 ERA in four games (two starts) with 19 hits and 13 earned runs in 13 innings. He has six walks and 10 strikeouts and has surrendered a staggering nine home runs.
Six or Teheran’s homers came in two innings against the Tigers in the second Grapefruit League game, when wind blew hard to right field (he also gave up several hard-hit balls that weren’t wind-aided). Delgado gave up four runs and a homer in one inning that same day.
“That Detroit game I don’t even worry about,” Gonzalez said.
If stats from the Tigers game are excluded, Delgado has a 4.50 ERA with 10 hits, seven walks and 12 strikeouts in 12 innings, and Teheran a 4.91 ERA with 13 hits (three homers), five walks and nine strikeouts in 11 innings.
Teheran was asked about the rash of homers he’s allowed, including a sixth-inning leadoff shot Monday by Carlos Beltran, the first batter he faced.
He’s used to warming up for starts and said he didn’t warm up properly Monday before entering in the sixth inning. But his propensity for long balls this spring hasn’t otherwise been related to warming up properly.
“When I miss the zone and don’t locate my fastball, I pay the price,” said Teheran, who was recently rated the second-best right-handed pitching prospect behind Texas’ Yu Darvish by Baseball America. “I’ll keep working on it to get better.”
Gonzalez said Teheran helped create the power on home runs against him.
“It’s just one of those things where he’s got a 96-97 mph fastball and if you get into a hitters’ count, these guys up here are geared up to hit that,” Gonzalez said. “And if you don’t get it in the spot that you want it, it’s going to get turned around.”
The 21-year-old Colombian allowed only one hit and two walks in his remaining three scoreless innings Monday.
“He was a lot better” after his first inning, Gonzalez said. “Again, fastball command is not where he wants it. But I thought he spun his breaking ball pretty good a couple of times and he threw some change-ups that were pretty good.”