Julio Tehran has solid start in Brewer’s debut

MILWAUKEE – Manager Craig Counsell didn’t think it was all that unusual for the Brewers to start right-hander Julio Tehran against the Giants on Thursday just two hours after he signed.

“It’s very much like a trade,” Counsell shrugged. “I think CC Sabathia, who’s here tonight, did that. I think we traded for him and he pitched the first day he got here.

Time flies, because that was 15 years ago. Indeed, Sabathia, a special assistant to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, was at American Family Field Thursday to watch Tehran’s rather inspired return to the sport’s biggest stage after an absence of more than two years in the Brewers’ 5-0 defeat. against the Giants.

Tehran closed a gap in an injury-laden rotation, pitching five solid innings while holding the Giants to one run on four hits (all singles) with one walk and five strikeouts. The game was closer than the final score suggested. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s RBI single with two outs in the fifth inning, it represented lone run for either team until the Giants knocked Tyson Miller down for four runs in the eighth. The Brewers put up just four hits in a bullpen game for the Giants; 3 2/3 innings were delivered by left-handers, the Brewers’ Achilles heel.

Tehran threw 85 pitches and reached a top speed of 91.7 mph in his first start since April 3, 2021 with the Tigers. A shoulder injury interrupted a great big league career that he mostly spent with the Braves. His five strikeouts were the most since Tehran struckout six in September 2019, when he was still considered a top-level starter. In a seven-season span of making two National League All-Star teams, Tehran went 150 innings each year and delivered a 3.64 ERA for Atlanta.

“When I signed the contract (Thursday afternoon), I felt like I was back,” Tehran said. “Today I was really focused. It’s something I’ve been doing all my life, pitching to a lot of people. It was like, ‘This is the place I deserve to be and have worked for.’ I went out and competed.’

Counsell noted that Tehran’s delivery was closer to a three-quarter time slot than he remembered from Atlanta. Giants outfielder Michael Conforto, the former Met who had 30 at bats against Tehran with Atlanta, also noticed the different look.

“He threw more four-seam fastballs in the zone,” Conforto said. “From what I remember, it was more sinkers down, and he came in a little bit more. … He pitched pretty well for the first five innings. The four seam working the other way seems to work a little better for him.

Thursday’s performance continued a strong trajectory for starting pitchers who were not on the Brewers’ Opening Day roster but are now key arms for a team trying to get on the other side of a relentless injury streak. Colin Rea and Adrian Houser each delivered 5 1/3 innings of scoreless ball in back-to-back shutout victories over the Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday before Tehran passed a physical pass and ran for Milwaukee’s series opener against the Giants.

Days earlier, he had become a free agent by opting out of a minor league deal with the Padres. Tehran was 4-2 with a 5.62 ERA to Triple-A El Paso, including a 3.74 ERA over its last four starts.

“He threw the ball well. It’s hard to pitch on the moon there,” said Brewers GM Matt Arnold, a nod to El Paso’s reputation for high-altitude batting friendliness. “If you want to close a hole, you can do worse then do a two-time All-Star.

“We are always looking. You have to have it especially with starting pitching. With relievers, it’s like, ‘We can find it.’ But finding guys to (start), that’s hard. We love the experience. And we hear he’s a great guy.”

Tehran said the past two years have been “tough” as he tried to get healthy and find an opportunity with a major league club. He had stints in Independent Ball and in Mexico before his Minor League deal with the Padres.

“That was part of the process, that was part of the challenge I had,” he said. “I knew that at some point, if I did what I did in my previous years, I would come back. I’m kind of proud of myself and the work I’ve done to get back to the big leagues.

Counsell said, “He pitches like he knows what he’s doing, which is what we expected.”

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