Bill Shanks

Leash getting shorter on Braves’ starter Teheran

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals on April 3 in Atlanta.
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran works in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals on April 3 in Atlanta. AP

Monday night’s Braves game in Washington was a typical Julio Teheran start. It was again something that made fans shake their heads at who is supposed to be Atlanta’s top starter.

It was frustrating. He is frustrating.

Teheran gave up two runs in the first inning. Fans watching likely said, “Here we go again,” since Teheran had two bad starts to begin the season. But unlike his two games at home, a place that has become a house of horrors for Teheran, he then settled down and pitched well.

Oh, sure, Teheran would pitch well in a road game. Giving up only two runs in six innings is a solid start and compared to what Teheran has done at SunTrust Park, Monday’s game was a gem. The dichotomy that is Teheran remains a mystery.

Since SunTrust Park opened last year, Teheran has started 19 games. His record is 3-10 and his earned run average is 6.20. In the two starts there this season, Teheran has given up nine runs in eight innings.

Teheran was great on the road last season. He had a 3.14 ERA, two-and-a-half runs lower than what his home ERA was at SunTrust. And his first road start Monday, while a loss, at least gave the Braves a chance to win.

Maybe Teheran has something against Cobb County. He was fine at Turner Field. In 70 games at the Braves’ previous home, Teheran had an ERA of 3.02.

So, why in the world would a pitcher do so poorly in one stadium? There is no explanation, no reason. It’s just one of those fluky things in baseball that cannot be explained.

There’s a problem, though. The Braves can’t afford to have a starting pitcher not be able to pitch in the home park. Whether Teheran likes it or not, the Braves aren’t going back to Turner Field. So, he either must learn how to get better at SunTrust Park or the Braves will find him another home stadium in a trade.

Let’s get one thing straight. Teheran has never been an ace. He’s been Atlanta’s number one starter for several years, mainly because no one else was better. But there is a difference between a team’s number one starter and an ace. Teheran’s opponent Monday night, Washington’s Max Scherzer, is an ace.

Teheran has been the best pitcher the last few years on a team that has been rebuilding. That’s not easy. He’s the modern-day Zane Smith. Remember him? Smith was Atlanta’s best starter back when they last went through a rebuild, in the late-1980s.

Smith had a 4.06 ERA in his six seasons with the Braves, all losing seasons. Then when Smith left the Braves, he went on to have an ERA of 3.35 ERA and was a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Pirates for several years.

Before the Braves started the rebuild, Teheran’s first two years in the rotation, he had an ERA of 3.03. Since then, during the rebuild, his ERA is 4.00. So, it’s obviously made a difference.

This guy can pitch, but he just can’t pitch at SunTrust Park. And pitching on a bad team has been a challenge.

Teheran could likely be replaced soon as the team’s top starter by the young kids who are getting ready to push several down in the rotation. But it won’t save his job if he can’t shake whatever ails him at SunTrust Park. The Braves can’t just pitch this guy on the road.

They instead must hope if he can’t do better at home, Teheran can at least do well enough on the road to show interested teams that it’s just one of those things. There will be interest, especially if teams don’t have to pitch him very often at SunTrust Park.

Teheran is signed to a reasonable contract through 2020, so the Braves would be better off if he could figure things out. But with the Braves already looking better, the leash won’t be long. Teheran must improve, or else he’ll be gone.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

  Comments