Inside Teheran's unique comeback story

June 17th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers saw beyond ’s 5.62 ERA at Triple-A El Paso, and now he’s one of baseball’s best comeback stories.

Back in the big leagues for the first time in more than two years, the 32-year-old Teheran has a 1.78 ERA through five starts with Milwaukee, including a one-hit outing against the Pirates. Teheran’s WHIP in eight starts for El Paso, the Padres’ top affiliate, was 1.68. Through five starts in the big leagues for the Brewers, it’s 0.82.

“It didn’t matter that I had a 5.00 ERA there,” Teheran said. “I knew my pitches were good and I was commanding the ball [well enough] to pitch here.”

But how did Teheran and his new team get on the same page so seamlessly?

“TrackMan does help,” said Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook, referring to the ubiquitous pitch-tracking technology. “But it’s more, like, we know who he is, what he does, how he’s been successful. It’s making sure that what we think matches what he feels.

“He’s done it a long time, had a lot of success. And he commands the baseball. That always helps.”

It’s worth revisiting how quickly this came together. Teheran arrived in Milwaukee a day or two before signing a one-year contract on May 25, a little more than two hours before he delivered five innings of one-run ball against the Giants.

Six days later, he pitched six frames against the Blue Jays without allowing an earned run, and he followed that with 6 1/3 innings and two earned runs on the road against the Reds on June 5. His next outing was a seven-inning start with one earned run against the A’s on June 10. That was Teheran’s longest appearance since 2019 with the Braves, during his run as one of the best right-handed pitchers in baseball.

Until arriving in Milwaukee, Teheran hadn’t been able to repeat that success since leaving Atlanta. He had a 10.05 ERA for the Angels during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then he injured his shoulder after one start with the Tigers in '21, which pushed him out of the Majors and Minors for almost two years.

Healthy again this season, Teheran signed a Minor League deal with the Padres that included a series of “outs,” but meant pitching at notoriously hitter-friendly El Paso. The Brewers saw data they liked, however. Teheran no longer throws 96 mph fastballs like he did in his prime with the Braves, but he has upped the usage of his sinker and added a cutter this season.

When the Brewers found themselves in rather desperate need of starting pitching at the end of May, Teheran elected free agency and made the move.

“I’m trying to enjoy each day, every day,” Teheran said. “To go out there feeling that confidence, it shows. That’s why I’m going out there and competing.”

Asked to explain his consistency, Teheran said, “being able to use all of my pitches. The cutter, the one pitch that I learned how to throw this season, has been a huge pitch for me. I can throw it behind in counts and ahead in counts and whenever I want.”

The Brewers are a little healthier now, with left-hander Wade Miley back from the injured list. Brandon Woodruff has a bullpen session scheduled for the end of next week and Eric Lauer is pitching again in Triple-A after missing time.

But regardless of what happens around him, Teheran has cemented his spot in Milwaukee’s rotation.

“It’s another challenge in a long season,” Hook said. “I always look at it as an opportunity when you don’t have all of your main dudes. We’re building depth here, too. We’ll see which one of these guys stands out so we know down the stretch.”