BRADENTON, Fla. -- Julio Teheran is the prohibitive favorite to begin the season as the fifth starter in Atlanta's rotation. But the ever-steady Sean Gilmartin will spend the next month attempting to show the Braves he could fill that role if Teheran stumbles.
Making their Grapefruit League season debuts in Sunday's 9-2 loss to the Pirates at McKechnie Field, Teheran and Gilmartin both completed two scoreless innings. They will both be scheduled to throw three innings when they resume their battle for the fifth spot on Friday night against the Astros.
After Teheran blanked the Pirates through the first two innings, Gilmartin surrendered just one hit -- Clint Barmes' one-out, third-inning single -- as he worked the third and fourth innings. The 22-year-old left-hander used his changeup to record a pair of strikeouts and did not issue a walk.
"He commands three or four pitches to both sides of the plate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He does a lot of good stuff. There is not a lot of surprise there."
Gilmartin combined to go 6-10 with a 3.84 ERA in 26 starts with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last year. A product of Florida State University, he was the team's first-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"Towards the end of last year, my fastball command was a little bit erratic, and I was kind of up in the zone," Gilmartin said. "This year, getting ready for Spring Training, my main thought process was the ability to command the fastball and locate it at the bottom part of the zone."
Teheran issued a first-inning walk to Russell Martin and hit Gaby Sanchez with a pitch at the end of a 10-pitch plate appearance in the second inning. Those were the only blemishes on the line for the 22-year-old right-hander, who created optimism with the success he produced this offseason in the Dominican Winter League.
"His stuff wasn't like I saw it in the Dominican last time," Gonzalez said. "But he got through it. Most of the time you got to go out and pitch without your best stuff. He threw some good breaking balls. His four-seam was up. But his two-seam had some bite to it."