On debuts

Braves uberprospect Julio Teheran makes his debut against the Phillies tonight, about a year and a half ahead of schedule. It’s just a spot start — they don’t want Tim Hudson or Cyborg Tommy Hanson throwing on three days’ rest, and Mike Minor threw just the other day — and they don’t expect Teheran to stick around for now, but it’s still exciting. I talked the other day about how rarely the Braves have produced a legitimately good pitcher over the last decade or so — but I still love seeing prospects make their debuts, just the same.

Part of it’s the fascination with newness that makes not just sports, but hobbies in general interesting. Part of it, though, is that until a guy throws his first pitch in the big leagues, he could be anything. Future ace? Strikeout king? Hall-of-Famer? The odds are against him, but until he actually fails, anything’s possible.

That’s the joy of a debut. Until that first game, a prospect is complete untapped potential. With each game they play the warts will make themselves evident — no one has a perfect career, where everything goes right. For all his polish and maturity, in all likelihood Teheran will have to improve his control, or refine his pitch sequences, or keep from tipping his pitches, or learn to control his temper in order to be a big league pitcher, and until he does things will be rough for him. But that’s all in the future. He’s got plenty of time to work things out, and waiting out the rough patches of his career will allow us to (hopefully) see him at his height. Until then, though, he can represent anything we want him to — he’s a blank slate on which we can inscribe our hopes and dreams for his future.

Reality disappoints. Until his debut, Teheran’s future is a dream, and that’s always more fun.

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