2013 Outlook: Teheran earns way into Braves' rotation

PITTSBURGH -- As Julio Teheran has endured growing pains through his first three starts, the Braves have remained patient with the hope that he will steadily improve like Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor did after they became regulars in the Atlanta rotation during the past two seasons.

"I think it's a process," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "The Braves have always been in a position to keep running them out there."

Beachy posted a 5.19 ERA in his first three starts of the 2011 season and then completed more than six innings in just two of the 25 starts he made that year. His struggles paled in comparison to those experienced by Minor, who compiled a 6.20 ERA in his first 15 starts last year.

But both of these pitchers experienced the successful turnaround the Braves are hoping to see from Teheran.

Beachy was leading the National League in ERA when he learned he needed Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery just before last year's All-Star break. Minor has compiled a 2.00 ERA in the 18 starts he has made since entering last July with the realization that fans were calling for him to be sent back to the Minor League level.

"It's a maturity thing," said Gonzalez, who has seen Teheran allow at least four earned runs in each of his first three starts this year.

It appeared Teheran might have turned things around when he allowed four runs in the first two innings of his April 12 start in Washington and then held the Nationals hitless during the last four innings of his six-inning effort. But as he blew three leads and allowed the Pirates four runs in five innings on Thursday, the 22-year-old right-hander provided the reminder he was making just his seventh career start.

"We've got to be patient with him," Gonzalez said. "Yesterday we could have easily got him out of that situation and put somebody else in there. But we didn't. We let him get out of it."

When Teheran posted a 1.04 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts, he found comfort with a two-seam fastball he developed during the winter and had confidence with both his curveball and slider. But as he progressed through Thursday's start, he struggled to command his fastball and shied away from his offspeed pitches.

"Everybody, including myself saw the Spring Training success," Gonzalez said. "But it's not Spring Training any more. The lights are on and he's facing Major League hitters. It's a process of going through this stuff."

B.J. Upton ejected in seventh inning by ump Holbrook

ATL@PIT: B.J. Upton tossed in seventh for arguing

PITTSBURGH -- B.J. Upton was not with the Braves when Sam Holbrook made his infamous infield fly ruling during last year's one-game Wild Card playoff against the Cardinals. But the veteran center fielder now has his own Atlanta-related history with Holbrook.

Upton became the first Braves player to be ejected this year when Holbrook tossed him in the seventh inning of Friday night's 6-0 loss to the Pirates.

After looking at Wandy Rodriguez's third strike, Upton stepped across the plate and stopped to express his displeasure. The argument became heated when Holbrook used his right hand to make a shooing motion back toward the dugout.

"We had our disagreements about the pitch," Upton said. "Obviously I didn't agree with it. He thought it was a strike. I can live with that. But the shooing away part -- no, I'm a grown man. You just don't do that."

This prompted Upton to drop his bat and helmet before coming back toward Holbrook. The two were nose-to-nose before Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez intervened by getting between them.

"I can sympathize with B.J. on that," Gonzalez said. "I think if the matter would have been handled different, B.J. might have stayed in the game. I didn't think the pitch was that bad of a pitch. But when B.J. comes back and asks something, the way he got waved off probably ticked him off. They didn't give me a chance to get out there and try to keep him in the game."

Upton agreed with his manager's assessment.

"[Holbrook] pretty much said just go back to the dugout," Upton said. "I was going and [he] kind of gave me the shoo-away like I was a fly or something. It was like get away from me or something. I was good with it. I was going back to the dugout."

Holbrook will always be remembered by Atlanta fans for his infield fly ruling, which came on an Andrelton Simmons' fly ball that landed in left field, an estimated 225 feet from the plate. Fans littered the field with bottles and other debris while play was stopped for 19 minutes.

"I'm aware of what happened last year," Upton said. "But I don't really have a problem with him. All that is in the past. It's 2013. We disagreed with something to do with the game. But as far as the shooing away part, I don't think anybody would really take that well."

Avilan completes bullpen but Braves still cautious

KC@ATL: Avilan exits in pain in the ninth

PITTSBURGH -- Luis Avilan was encouraged with the way his sore left hamstring reacted as he jogged and completed a 25-pitch bullpen session early Friday afternoon at PNC Park. But the Braves are not yet convinced they will be able to avoid placing the left-handed reliever on the disabled list.

"[The bullpen session] was just okay, nothing that you're going to say, 'Yeah, we feel good about running him out there,'" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But it's only been two days since he came out with us thinking he pulled the hamstring off the bone. There is some progress there. So maybe we can wait a few more days until we actually need something."

After Avilan fell to the ground while delivering a pitch in Tuesday night's ninth inning and then was carted off the field, it appeared that he might be dealing with a significant injury. But the Braves continue to hold out hope that his discomfort was simply a product of a slight strain and cramping.

It does not appear Avilan will be available before Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Pirates. If he is not ready to pitch at that point, he will likely be placed on the disabled list retroactive to Tuesday.

Cristhian Martinez would be eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Monday. The other top candidates are right-handers David Carpenter and David Hale.

Worth noting

• Freddie Freeman was scheduled to begin a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday. Freeman, who has been sidelined since April 6 with a strained right oblique muscle, will serve as a designated hitter on Friday and then play first base on Saturday and Sunday. If all goes well, he will be activated for Monday's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field.

• Brian McCann was hoping to be cleared to begin catching in an extended Spring Training game this week. But Gonzalez said McCann, who has been dealing with some right wrist discomfort, will likely not get behind the plate before Monday. McCann is going through the final stages of his recovery from offseason right shoulder surgery.