LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Julio Teheran struggled through a frustrating 2015 season, he didn't necessarily look like the same fearless pitcher who had proved successful during his two previous years in Atlanta's rotation. But when given a chance to validate his resolve and competitive nature last year, a
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Julio Teheran struggled through a frustrating 2015 season, he didn't necessarily look like the same fearless pitcher who had proved successful during his two previous years in Atlanta's rotation. But when given a chance to validate his resolve and competitive nature last year, a revitalized Teheran regained his confidence and gave an indication he is, indeed, capable of spending at least a couple more seasons serving as the anchor of the Braves' rotation.
"He's gotten smarter and he now knows what he needs to do to win games," Braves first-base coach Eddie Perez said. "He's more secure. I think he was relaxing more last year. He's still learning about this game, but he knows a lot. He knows how to get people out, and that's the main key. I can't wait until the end of this season to see his numbers."
Teheran will open his fifth full big league season and make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start when he opposes Noah Syndergaard and the Mets on Monday afternoon at Citi Field. The 26-year-old right-hander will join Greg Maddux (1993-96) and Rick Mahler (1985-88) as the only pitchers in Atlanta history to make four consecutive Opening Day starts.
"He's our guy based on how he pitched last year and all," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He made the All-Star team and he pitched a lot better than what his record was. He's deserving. There really was never any question for me. He's our guy."
After posting a 3.03 ERA over the 63 starts made within his first two full big league seasons, Teheran battled inconsistent command and lost a feel for both his curveball and changeup as he produced a 4.04 ERA over 33 starts in 2015. He clashed with former pitching coach Roger McDowell more frequently and seemingly lost some of that edge he showed early in his career.
But Teheran benefited from McDowell's guidance last year, as his slider returned to form and his other secondary pitches proved more valuable as his fastball command improved. He produced a 2.46 ERA through last year's first 16 starts and then battled minor ailments that influenced a couple of rocky starts just before the All-Star break. But he allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts.
Now as the Braves prepare to open a new season, they will confidently turn to Teheran with the hope that last season was truly an indication that his career is progressing in the right direction.
"I was happy with the way last year went and I felt good when I pitched in this year's [World Baseball Classic]," Teheran said. "I'm ready for the season."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.