03/17/2013 1:39 PM ET
Teheran takes another step toward rotation spot
By Steve Dorsey / Special to MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Julio Teheran took another step forward Sunday afternoon in his quest to earn the fifth spot in the Braves' starting rotation.
The right-hander recovered from a rocky start to go six complete innings, giving up only one run on three hits to pick up his second win in three decisions this spring. He registered seven strikeouts and issued two walks during his 83-pitch outing that included 56 pitches for strikes and 27 for balls in the Braves' 2-1 win against the Mets.
Teheran, making his fifth Grapefruit League start, gave up a home run to the first batter he faced Sunday, a long drive over the right-field fence at Tradition Field by the Mets' Jordany Valdespin. The next batter, Collin Cowgill, took Teheran deep to left but Braves left-fielder Jose Constanza caught it at the wall for the first out. Then Ike Davis doubled sharply to the gap in right-center, but Teheran pitched out of the inning without any further damage and gave up only one more hit the remainder of his outing.
"He settled down and did a nice job," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Teheran. "He's going to have those situations during the course of the season, but he's going to have to learn from that. He's been really impressive the way he's been handling himself. I think [catcher] Gerald Laird has helped him tremendously."
Laird said he's seen vast improvement in Teheran's approach this season compared to last year.
"He's come a long way," Laird said. "I think the pitch that's really kind of put him over the edge is that two-seamer he's learned to locate. If he can establish a pitch like that with velocity, he's going to get a lot of ground balls. He's doing a really good job. It's all him. He's worked really hard and taking his bullpens really serious. He's shown a lot of maturity this camp. He showed that today. You like to see a guy kind of give up something and see how he responds, and he did a good job of that today. He's got some confidence out there."
Sunday's performance gives Teheran an ERA of 1.35, and Gonzalez said the right-hander will have at least two more starts before the team breaks camp. Teheran said he's not putting as much pressure on himself this season.
"I've been pitching, not throwing [like last year]. That's the difference," Teheran said.
Has he done enough to earn the fifth starting spot? He hopes so.
"I'm waiting on them to tell me," Teheran said, smiling. "I'm excited."
Johnson, Francisco still battling for third base job
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez still doesn't know who will be the Braves' starting third baseman on Opening Day in two weeks.
Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco have been locked in the third base battle all spring, and Gonzalez likes what he sees in both players at the hot corner.
"They've both been great," Gonzalez said Sunday before the Braves' game against the Mets at Tradition Field. "They give you good at-bats, they play third base better than average defensively."
Sunday didn't exactly do much in determining a front-runner. Johnson started at third, and went 3-for-4 with a solo home run, raising his spring average to .333. Francisco pinch-hit in the top of the seventh and delivered a single, meaning the two third basemen accounted for half of the Braves' eight hits in the 2-1 win against the Mets.
"They both bring other pluses to the team," Gonzalez said. "For example, if Juan is playing, Chris could be the right-handed bat off the bench. When Chris is playing, Francisco is a dangerous bat off the bench left-handed. Chris could play a little first base, so it gives you that dynamic where you could give [Freddie] Freeman a day off against a tough lefty. It gives you versatility. It gives you pretty good weapons."
One thing that Gonzalez is sure of, both likely will break camp on the Major League roster.
"They're both, to me, on the club," Gonzalez said. "We'll see. I'm open to a platoon situation, but I'm also open to whoever wins it. For me, it's that close. It's not like one's going to go away and we've got to make a decision on [if] one stays and one goes down to the Minor Leagues or whatever."
Beachy continues to progress, could return by June
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Fredi Gonzalez said injured right-hander Brandon Beachy continues to progress with his rehab and appears on schedule to return sometime in late June.
"He's on target," Gonzalez said. "He's thrown some bullpens, he's played some long catch and he hasn't had any setbacks."
Beachy was placed on the disabled list on June 16 last year after undergoing successful Tommy John surgery to repair the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
"In my experience with those Tommy John surgeries, if you follow the rehab and you follow what they ask you to do, you usually come back at 12 months," Gonzalez said. "He's right there."
Beachy's absence has opened the door for right-hander Julio Teheran to move into the likely role of fifth starter. Teheran made his fifth Grapefruit League start Sunday against the Mets. Teheran entered Sunday having allowed only two runs and four hits in 14 innings of work.
"He's pitched great," Gonzalez said. "If we gotta break camp tomorrow, he's our fifth (starter). He's pitched that well. We're going to give him an opportunity, I think, barring something crazy."
• Gonzalez said that injured catcher Brian McCann looked good swinging the bat in a hitting session Saturday and remains on track to return April 16. • Regis Philbin, outfitted in a Mets green St. Patrick's Day jersey, threw out the first pitch Sunday at Tradition Field.
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.