Milwaukee — Manager Craig Counsell didn’t find it all that unusual that the Brewers started right hand Julio Teheran against the Giants on Thursday, just two hours or so after he was signed to a contract.
“It’s a lot like a trade,” Conseil shrugged. “I think CC Sabathia, who’s here tonight, did that. I think we traded for him and he threw up the first day he got here.”
Time flies, because that was 15 years ago. Sabathia, a special assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, was already at American Family Field Thursday to witness Tehran’s inspired return to the biggest stage in sports after an absence of more than two years in the Brewers’ 5-0 loss to the Giants.
Plugging a hole in an injury-plagued turnover, Tehran pitched five solid innings while the Giants held one run on four strikeouts (all singles) with one walk and five strikeouts. The match was closer than the final score made it seem. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s RBI single with two outs in the fifth inning represented the only run for either team until the Giants beat Tyson Miller for four runs in the eighth inning. The Brewers recorded only four hits in the Giants’ bullpen; 3 2/3 of the innings was delivered by the left handed, Brewers Achilles heel.
Teheran threw 85 pitches and topped at 91.7 mph in his first start since April 3, 2021 with the Tigers. A shoulder injury interrupted a stellar major league career, most of which he spent with the Braves. His five strikeouts were the most since Tehran struck out six in September 2019, when he was still considered a top-tier player. In a seven-season stint in which he made two National League All-Star teams, Tehran topped 150 runs each year and pitched a 3.64 ERA for Atlanta.
When I signed the contract [Thursday afternoon]”I kind of felt like I was back,” Tehran said. “Today, I was really focused. It was something I’d been doing my whole life, to show in front of a lot of people. It was like, ‘This is where I deserve to be and I’ve been working for it. ‘ I was going out there and competing.”
Conseil noted that Tehran’s delivery was closer to a three-quarter hole than he could remember from Atlanta. Giants outfielder Michael Conforto, a former rusher who had 30 at-bats against Tehran with Atlanta, also noticed the different look.
“He was throwing more four-seam fastballs in the area,” Conforto said. “From what I remember, there were more sinkers, and he was getting in a bit more. … He threw really well for the first five rounds. The four seams running the other way seemed to work a little better for him.”
Thursday’s outing continued with a solid stretch of starting pitchers who weren’t on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, but are now important arms of a team trying to get to the other side of a brutal array of injuries. Colin Rea and Adrian Houser pitched 5/3 innings of scoreless ball in back-to-back shutout victories over the Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday before Teheran passed a physical and was active in Milwaukee’s series opener against the Giants.
He became a free agent days earlier by opting out of a Minor League deal with the Padres. Tehran was 4-2 with a 5.62 ERA for Triple-A El Paso, including a 3.74 ERA over his last four starts.
“He was throwing the ball well. It’s hard to moonsue,” Brewers general manager Matt Arnold said, referring to El Paso’s reputation as a high-altitude, hitter-friendly pitcher. “If you’re looking to fill a gap, you could do worse.” Two-time All-Star Game.
“We’re always looking. Especially as promotion starts, you gotta get it. With painkillers, it’s like, ‘We can find it.’ But finding guys [start], this is difficult. We love to experiment. And we hear he’s a great guy.”
Tehran said the past two years have been “difficult” as he tried to recover and find an opportunity with a league club. He had stints in freelance ball and in Mexico prior to his minor league contract with the Padres.
“That was part of the process,” he said, “and that was part of the challenge I had.” “I knew that at some point, if I was doing what I was doing in previous years, I would be back. I’m kind of proud of myself and the work I’ve been doing to get back into the big leagues.”
“He plays like he knows what he’s doing, which is kind of what we expected,” Counsell said.
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