Teheran hoping to reverse trend vs. lefties

Teheran hoping to reverse trend vs. lefties

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Three weeks before making his third consecutive Opening Day start, Julio Teheran assumed the appearance of a pitcher who is ready for the regular season to begin. Or at least one who is cognizant of the fact that he will need to be better against left-handed hitters this year.

Teheran was efficiently dominant as he faced one batter over the minimum, totaling just 34 pitches while completing four scoreless innings during Monday afternoon's 5-0 win over the Rays. The two hits he surrendered were by lefties. But the Braves' right-hander fared better against this group than he had when he faced the Astros during last week's Grapefruit League debut.

"It was a lot better than the last time that I pitched," Teheran said. "I was throwing strikes. That was one of my goals for this game. All of my pitches were really good. I just made a couple mistakes. There's still two weeks that I can work on things."

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The 25-year-old's primary focus during the final weeks of camp will be to make the adjustments necessary to avoid a repeat of 2015, when Teheran limited right-handed hitters to a .583 OPS and allowed left-handers to produce an .893 OPS. Far too often last year, he found his two-seam fastball running back over the plate against lefties. Thus, he understands that he must be more aggressive during those instances when he wants to come inside on a lefty with this pitch.

"If you're going to go in on those lefties, you've got to make sure that ball doesn't come back over the plate," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was just a matter of some mechanics and a matter of not throwing the two-seamer in there at times."

When tasked with facing 11 left-handed hitters during last week's debut against the Astros, Teheran surrendered three hits and issued a walk. During Monday afternoon's impressive outing, he permitted two hits in the seven at-bats tallied by left-handed hitters.

Teheran retired the first five batters he faced before Nick Franklin tried turning his two-out single into a double. James Loney's two-out double in the fourth accounted for the only other hit off the Braves' ace.

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Coming off a frustrating season during which he produced a 4.04 ERA, Teheran knows that he is capable of producing splits that are more comparable. When he posted a 2.89 ERA in 2014, he recorded a .587 OPS to right-handers and a .687 OPS to lefties.

"I don't want to forget about the righties, but more important right now is the lefties," Teheran said. "I'm just trying to use both sides of the plate. I made a couple mistakes, but I still have a few weeks, and that is what Spring Training is for, to do what you have to do to get better."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.