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Teheran taking control from the stretch

@mlbbowman
March 17, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Given all the rotation concerns that have developed over the past few weeks, Braves manager Brian Snitker enjoyed watching a reinvigorated Julio Teheran successfully handle an Astros lineup that included Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex Sunday afternoon. “With

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Given all the rotation concerns that have developed over the past few weeks, Braves manager Brian Snitker enjoyed watching a reinvigorated Julio Teheran successfully handle an Astros lineup that included Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex Sunday afternoon.

“With what we’ve been going through, it’s nice to have him going so good,” Snitker said after his team’s 7-3 loss to the Astros.

Maintaining his new practice of pitching solely from the stretch, Teheran notched six strikeouts, scattered four hits and allowed one run over five walk-free innings. The 28-year-old veteran, who matched teammate Sean Newcomb’s MLB-worst 11.6 percent walk rate last year, has recorded 16 strikeouts and issued just one walk through 12 Grapefruit League innings.

“I know [walks] were a big issue for me last year,” Teheran said. “This year is a different year. It’s a new start. I’m just focusing on doing my job. As you can see, the biggest difference is throwing from the stretch the whole time. That’s the only change I’ve made, and it’s been good so far.”

Having battled the frustration created by frequent battles with inconsistency over the past two seasons, Teheran heeded new pitching coach Rick Kranitz’s suggestion to ditch the windup during the first week of this year’s Spring Training.

Teheran produced an 11 percent walk rate (50 of 454 batters faced) and surrendered a slash line of .182/.278/349 while pitching from the windup last year. He produced a 15.3 percent walk rate and surrendered a slash line of .221/.333/.419 with runners on base last year.

This altered approach won’t necessarily serve as the only necessary adjustment for the two-time All-Star, who produced a 1.40 ERA in six Spring Training starts last year and then produced a 3.94 ERA over 31 regular season starts. But the alteration, combined with the 10 pounds of muscle added this offseason, have seemingly helped create more consistency with his fastball command and the action created with his slider and changeup.

“I think [Teheran] just feels like he’s more powerful,” Snitker said. “You see a lot of guys doing that now. A lot of guys are going to simpler deliveries. The quality of pitches has been really good. The way the ball is coming out of his hand. Even our hitters were talking about the difference they saw in live [batting practice].”

Teheran ended Sunday’s first inning by freezing Bregman with a two-strike slider and getting Josh Reddick to flail at another two-strike slider. He froze Altuve in the third to account for another strikeout looking.

“The way we see the hitters reacting is how you can tell how your pitches are working,” Teheran said. “Today, we saw a lot of reactions. Today, we saw two of the best hitters in the game -- Bregman and Altuve -- and I saw the reactions they had. All of my pitches were working good.”

With Mike Foltynewicz set to spend the season’s first couple weeks on the disabled list, Kevin Gausman struggling through his first two spring starts and Sean Newcomb enhancing concerns about his command, the Braves have no choice but to give Teheran a sixth consecutive Opening Day start. The announcement is expected to be made early Monday afternoon.

“I’m just trying to go out there and do my job,” Teheran said. “They’ve got me lined up for Opening Day, but they haven’t decided. They have to wait and see. Every day, I’ve just got to come and wait for them to make the decision.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.