Julio Teheran's last three starts before the Dominican winter league all-star break showed why the right-hander remains the Atlanta Braves' top prospect despite a difficult second season in Class AAA last summer.
The 21-year-old from Colombia allowed just two hits over 16 2/3 scoreless innings for Licey, and one of the outings came Dec. 9 with general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and other Braves officials watching during a four-day trip to the Dominican Republic.
Teheran allowed one hit while striking out eight and walking none in that start. He pitched five no-hit innings in his previous game.
The Braves traded Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for reliever Jordan Walden to open up a spot in the rotation. Teheran and Randall Delgado are the leading candidates to fill the vacancy.
"We wanted to make sure there was an opportunity for our young pitchers to break through in the spring, and the way we were set up, there really wasn't a spot," Wren said after the trade of Hanson.
Of course, Teheran or Delgado could also figure as trade pieces in the Braves' continued search for a left fielder who would lead off. Neither pitcher is off limits, but Wren indicated that he wouldn't pull the switch on a deal unless he could acquire just what he wanted.
Teheran regressed in 2012 with Class AAA Gwinnett, going 7-9 with a 5.08 ERA after winning pitcher of the year honors in the International League in 2011 thanks to a 15-3 record and a 2.55 ERA. Teheran has made seven major league appearances including four starts, over the past two seasons, going 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA.
Delgado, 22, spent most of last season with the Braves, going 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 games (seven starts).
Teheran was faring better than Delgado in the Dominican, however. Delgado was 0-3 with a 5.11 ERA through six games (five starts), while Teheran was 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA through seven starts.