LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Julio Teheran was a sight for sore eyes for the Braves Tuesday, pitching four perfect innings with three strikeouts in a 9-1 Grapefruit League win against the Phillies at Champion Stadium.
After watching Kris Medlen walk off the field clutching his right elbow Sunday and Brandon Beachy limited to two innings Monday due to biceps tightness, the Braves were grateful to see Teheran sail through his start with 34 strikes in 49 pitches.
“That was a couple of bad days in a row,” Teheran said of the Braves’ recent pitching injuries. “I just tried to give the people something fresh, something different.”
He did that, coming through with a healthy and efficient outing. In three spring starts, Teheran has allowed six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in nine scoreless innings.
“He had command of all his pitches,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “His whole repertoire was really good.”
Teheran said he felt ready for the season and was hopeful of being the Braves’ opening day starter. Medlen had been scheduled to start opening day, but he could be facing surgery after an MRI revealed apparent ligament damage.
“I’ve just been working and trying to command (pitches),” Teheran said. “If I’m going to pitch the first game – that’s something that I want to do, it’s my goal – I think I’m ready. To be the (opening day) starter the first time anywhere in my career.”
With Beachy and Mike Minor also dealing with health issues and questionable for the first week of the season, Teheran seems the obvious choice for the opening-day start March 31 at Milwaukee. Last month, the 23-year-old Colombian signed a six-year, $32.4 million contract extension with a seventh-year option.
Asked about a potential opening-day starter, Gonzalez said, “I haven’t really revisited it because we’re going to have to do some maneuvering. I think here in the next couple of days we’ll do that.”
Dan Uggla homered for the second consecutive game, Todd Cunningham hit his second homer of the spring, and third-base prospect Edward Salcedo hit a two-run homer in a five-run sixth inning that gave the Braves a 6-0 lead. The Phillies didn’t get a hit until the seventh inning, when closer Craig Kimbrel allowed two walks and an RBI single by Kevin Frandsen.
Starting-pitcher health updates:
— Mike Minor, who was shut down for about a week due to shoulder soreness at the beginning of camp, has thrown three bullpen sessions in the past week but still hasn’t faced hitters in batting practice. He could pitch in in his first game within a week, but it’s uncertain if he’ll have enough time to build up stamina and be ready to pitch in the regular season by April 12, when the Braves will need a fifth starter. They can get by with four until then because of off days in the early schedule.
— Brandon Beachy was to have further tests performed after lasting only two innings Monday due to biceps tightness, but the Braves and the pitcher agree that the tightness and inflammation is probably just routine-type side effects of coming back from surgery. He had an arthroscopic procedure in September, his second elbow surgery in 15 months.
— Gavin Floyd, progressing smoothly into the final stages of his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery in May 2013, has looked sharp facing hitters in batting practice and could pitch in a minor league spring training game in the next couple of weeks. The Braves think he could be ready to join the rotation by early May.