LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Julio Teheran has positioned himself as the favorite to begin the season as Atlanta's fifth starter. But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wants Teheran to know that he is competing for that final rotation spot with Sean Gilmartin.
"Especially with young kids, I'm not big on anointing them by saying, 'You're the guy and here it is,'" Gonzalez said. "With a young kid, I think you still need to show them there is a carrot out there and you've still got to compete. The other guys read newspapers, too. Gilmartin, give him a good chance to compete."
Teheran's status as one of the game's top prospects was tarnished last year when he posted a 5.08 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett. Once he made some adjustments to his delivery in August, the 22-year-old right-hander showed some improvement. Teheran truly made strides while compiling a 3.23 ERA in seven starts during the Dominican Winter League.
"[My mechanics] were not feeling natural, but I was trying to do the whole year how they wanted me to do it," Teheran said. "But it doesn't work with me. So I started to use what I did the year before."
Teheran allowed one hit and recorded eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings while pitching in front of Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren in December. He allowed just two hits while completing 16 2/3 scoreless innings over his final three starts in the Dominican.
"He looked different in winter ball," Gonzalez said. "He looked like a guy who has pitched. Sometimes failure is a good teacher."
Gilmartin, who was selected in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, would be the most likely candidate to fill the fifth spot if Teheran struggles during the exhibition season. J.R. Graham, another promising prospect, likely needs a little more experience before becoming a legit candidate for Atlanta's rotation. Graham has made just nine starts at the Class A level.