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Teheran's star on rise again
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Fantasy owners have celebrated the achievements of St. Louis Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller and raced to put in waiver claims on pitching prospects Tony Cingrani, Michael Wacha and Jose Fernandez, but a forgotten youngster should start getting his due recognition after Wednesday's outing.

That young pitcher is Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves, a former top prospect who has been swept under the rug due to struggles over the last few years.

Teheran, who still has his rookie status this season, has been dominant lately, culminating in an eight-inning, one-hit, 11-strikeout scoreless effort Wednesday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Teheran had a no-hitter going into the eighth inning before Brandon Inge broke it up with a single.

Over his last eight starts, Teheran is 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 55 innings. His most recent start should finally help increase his 45 percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues.

There was some buzz surrounding Teheran coming out of spring training, during which he had a 1.04 ERA and struck out 35 batters with just nine walks in 26 innings.

That performance restored some of the luster to Teheran's star that he lost last season. Baseball America ranked Teheran as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball going into spring training, but he lost his shot at the No. 5 spot in Atlanta's rotation by posting a 9.37 ERA in 16 1/3 spring innings.

Teheran then recorded a 5.08 ERA in 131 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett. Combine that with his 5.19 ERA in 26 major league innings prior to this season, and Teheran looked like the latest heralded prospect who would never make it.

While his spring training success quieted some of the bust talk and made Teheran a fantasy sleeper, most owners likely gave up on him after he allowed 13 earned runs on 21 hits (five home runs) in 16 innings over his first three starts.

However, even after those first three turns, there was reason to think Teheran could turn it around if he got off to better starts ... and had some better luck.

The very first batter Teheran faced this season, David DeJesus of the Chicago Cubs, hit a line drive to right field that Jason Heyward lost in the lights for a double. In the first at-bat of Teheran's second start, Denard Span of the Washington Nationals tapped a ball down the third base line that went for an infield single after Chris Johnson couldn't make the play. And in his third start, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hit a fly ball to right- center field that barely eluded a diving Heyward's glove for a one-out double.

It's true Teheran didn't help matters by walking batters and allowing home runs, but the damage in those situations could have been lessened if those three plays went for outs. But because they all went for hits, they contributed to Teheran allowing four earned runs in the first inning over his first three starts. The first-inning struggles snowballed and led to him also giving up three runs in the second inning during that span.

In his last eight starts, the right-hander has given up only five runs combined in the first or second inning. During that time frame, he has cut down on both his walks and home runs allowed. He issued 3.9 free passes per nine innings and served up five round-trippers over his first three starts, but over his last eight, he has walked 1.3 batters per nine and allowed three homers.

Teheran is 4-2 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, providing yet another horse to a stacked field in the National League Rookie of the Year race.

Miller is still leading by a wide margin, with Fernandez, Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Teheran's teammate Evan Gattis behind him, but Teheran's outing Wednesday has caused Miller to start looking over his shoulder for the first time this season.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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