LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — In his first game with the Braves in more than two weeks and first game of any kind in eight days, Julio Teheran could be excused for showing a little rust Sunday.
Teheran was charged with six hits, four runs (three earned) and one walk in five innings of a 5-2 loss to St. Louis at Champion Stadium, where Cardinals fans easily outnumbered Braves fans in a crowd of 9,439 at the Braves’ spring-training home.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Teheran said, when asked about the layoff since his March 11 start for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. “Kind of felt weird. I was inconsistent with my fastball, but it was one of those games and I battled through my five innings. I feel good, that’s the most important thing, that I’m healthy and we’re getting closer to the start of the season.”
Dansby Swanson, also returning to the Braves lineup after a two-week absence, played four innings and went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. The rookie shortstop had been out with a strained muscle in his right side and went 2-for-3 with a home run Saturday in a minor league game before rejoining the big-league lineup.
“He might have been a little jumpy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He hit the homer and everything over there (in the minor league game) and things get ramped up here. He felt good, he was excited about coming back and playing.”
Snitker said Swanson would be out of the lineup Monday to rest, then work back into a regular playing routine
Shortly after the Braves officially announced Sunday that Teheran would make his fourth consecutive opening-day start April 3 against the Mets, the right-hander retired the first four Cardinals he faced. He also retired the last six that he faced, but in the middle, eight of 13 Cardinals reached base including one on a throwing error by third baseman Rio Ruiz.
It was Teheran’s first game since his stirring performance for Colombia, when he pitched five dominant innings in a 4-1 win against Canada that was the first ever for his home country in the WBC.
“This thing (WBC) has taken away everybody’s kind of normal routine, especially a pitcher,” Snitker said. “It’s been a while since he started. I thought his stuff was good. He started working on some things; he hadn’t been out there in a while. He wasn’t sharp as nails or over-strong or anything like that. He knows he can do it, that’s the thing.”
In the WBC win against Canada in Miami, Teheran allowed a first-inning RBI single to Braves teammate Freddie Freeman, then retired the last 13 batters he faced. He gave up just two hits and one walk against Team Canada, but team St. Louis gave him a bit more trouble.
After working a perfect first inning, he allowed two runs in the second on three hits including Tommy Pham’s RBI double. The Cardinals got an unearned run in the third on the Ruiz error and a Jed Gyorko double.
Matt Adams led off the Cardinals’ fourth with a towering home run to right-center field. Randal Grichuk followed with a double and Pham walked before Teheran got out of the jam by retiring the next three batters on two fly balls around a sacrifice bunt.