Marek On The Rebound For Braves

ATLANTA—Stephen Marek is the first to admit the 2009 season was anything but productive.

Considered to be one of the Braves' top relief prospects heading into the campaign, the righthander had a combined 6.00 ERA between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. Opponents batted .267 against him in the Southern League and .350 in the International.

The Braves saw improvements in Marek's approach late in the regular season. That carried over into the winter when he pitched effectively for Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific League. In 12 outings he posted a 2.38 ERA and succeeded on all five of his save opportunities.

His confidence brimming, Marek overcame a rough outing early in spring training with the big club before continuing to make strides in minor league camp. Upon returning to Mississippi in April, he yielded seven hits and no runs in 13 innings while going 4-for-4 in save situations prior to a promotion to Gwinnett.

"I entered this year focused on just doing my job and seeing what happens," the 26-year-old Marek said. "Last season a lot of things sidetracked me mentally. It turned out to be a learning experience, because it was really the first time in my career that I had struggled like that."

An Angels' 40th-round pick in 2004 out of San Jacinto (Texas) JC who signed as a draft-and-follow the next year, Marek joined the Braves in 2008 as part of the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Los Angeles. Marek said he tried too hard to impress his new team.

The key to Marek's turnaround has been cleaner mechanics, which has given him better command of his low 90s fastball with plus movement. He also has an overhand curveball with a sharp drop that he has mixed well thus far in 2010.

"I just need to stay consistent, especially with my delivery," Marek said. "I know I can't strike everybody out, especially going against some of the veteran hitters in Triple-A."

Wigwam Wisps

• Righthander Julio Teheran was promoted to high Class A Myrtle Beach after going 2-2, 1.14 in 39 innings at low Class A Rome. The 19-year-old from Colombia ranked second in the South Atlantic League in ERA and opponents average, which was .168.

• Outfielder Cody Johnson started crushing the ball again, that is, when he made contact. Johnson led the organization with 10 home runs through mid-May. The lefthanded hitter also had 50 strikeouts in his first 124 at-bats and was batting .115 against lefthanders.