Braves' Teheran Readies For His Next Challenge

ATLANTALess than a week after celebrating his 20th birthday in January, Julio Teheran was among 20 non-roster players invited to the Braves' big league camp. The fact that the righthander from Colombia has earned his first taste of life at the game's top level should not be a surprise. After all, Atlanta officials have learned over the past two years that nothing the young pitcher achieves can be considered shocking.

"He's a young man who has come a long way in a short period of time," Braves farm director Kurt Kemp said. "The quality of his pitches, the adjustments he is able to make, the athleticism he displays—nothing he does is what you would consider to be typical for a pitcher at his age."

Or any other age, for that matter. Widely considered to be one of the top prospects in the minor leagues, Teheran has the complete package to be a frontline starter in the major leagues. His electric arm produces a hard, moving fastball in the mid-90s that he complements with a plus changeup and a very good curveball. Despite weighing only 170 pounds, he maintains his velocity and rarely seems to tire, even on the most humid summer nights.

Yet what most observers are interested in seeing is how Teheran handles facing some of the game's best hitters. He has an uncanny ability to set up batters with his plus command and intuitiveness. Unafraid to challenge hitters or pitch inside, he possesses a killer instinct on the mound when he notices a weakness in an opponent.Teheran has moved quickly since signing as a 16-year-old for $850,000 in 2007.

Braves general manager Frank Wren has said Teheran could make his major league debut at some point during the 2011 season. That scenario would likely include several injuries in Atlanta, which would necessitate midseason moves. A more ideal situation would have Teheran spending most if not all of the season honing his skills in Double-A or Triple-A.

"In many ways, Julio will tell us where he needs to be based on the way he's pitching," Kemp said. "We're in a situation where we don't have to rush him. We want to do what's right for him."

Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves also invited righthander Arodys Vizcaino and lefty Brett Oberholtzer to big league camp.

• Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are expected to compete for the fifth starter's job in spring training after both pitched with Atlanta during the pennant race last September. The Braves also signed veteran righthander Rodrigo Lopez as a minor league free agent, thereby giving the team another option.