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01/21/11 3:22 PM EST

Highly touted Teheran set for Braves camp

ATLANTA -- When he received an $850,000 signing bonus in 2007, Julio Teheran was a 16-year-old pitcher whose unimposing stature led some to compare him to Pedro Martinez.

Three weeks from now, Teheran, who will turn 20 on Thursday, will arrive at his first big league camp with aspirations of showing why he has drawn comparisons to Martinez while establishing himself as one of the game's top overall prospects.

"He's got a lot of Pedro's mannerisms and intensity on the mound and feel," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "Pedro was a great instinctual pitcher, and I think that's something that Julio has that a lot of other kids don't."

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo ranks Teheran as the game's second-best right-handed pitching prospect, sitting only behind Rays hurler Jeremy Hellickson.

"I try not to think about that stuff too much," Teheran said with Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez interpreting. "But when I hear it, it makes me work harder and be a better player."

Teheran's anticipation for the upcoming season grew last week, when the Braves told him he would be among the non-roster players invited to participate in their big league camp this year. When asked about it, the young hurler smiled and immediately made it known that there is much more to accomplish this year.

"This is the first step," Teheran said. "I just want to keep doing what I've been doing the past couple of years."

Really, Teheran must simply focus on attempting to repeat what he did this past summer, when he remained healthy over the course of an entire season. Right shoulder discomfort plagued him through 2009.

While going 9-8 with a 2.59 ERA in the 24 starts he combined to make for three different Minor League affiliates in 2010, Teheran proved capable at each level. He started the season by going 2-2 with a 1.14 ERA in seven starts with Class A Rome.

After toying with the South Atlantic League competition, Teheran found similar success at the Class A Advanced level. He posted a 2.98 ERA and limited opponents to a .233 batting average in 10 starts with Myrtle Beach.

Teheran capped his impressive campaign by posting a 3.38 ERA and limiting opponents to a .204 batting average with Double-A Mississippi. At 19 years old, he handled this Southern League competition in a manner that gave him reason to believe he'd be ready if the Braves call him up to the Major League level at some point this year.

"That's my goal to be in the big leagues this year, but I'm not desperate to be here," Teheran said, with Perez serving as an interpreter.

As the Braves approach Spring Training, the only question surrounding their starting rotation centers around whether Brandon Beachy or Mike Minor will begin the year as the fifth starter. For now, there is no reason to believe Teheran will definitely make his way to the Major League level this year.

Teheran has made just 44 Minor League starts and 24 of those were completed this past summer. The Braves have reason to approach his development in a patient manner. At the same time, courtesy of their wealth of young starting pitching, they have the means to do this.

With Beachy, Minor, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the Braves have four Major League-ready starters who are 25 or younger. At the same time, there are some who believe they have a couple other young pitching prospects who are just as impressive as Teheran.

But while Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado certainly have a chance to be every bit as successful once they reach the Majors, Teheran is the one drawing the most widespread attention. Now he's simply looking for the opportunity to prove himself.

"I think I'm ready," Teheran said. "That's why I work hard every day trying to be perfect. Now it's up to the big guys [Braves management]."

Wren certainly doesn't have any plans to rush Teheran to the Majors. He's simply hoping to see the impressive young prospect continue to mature like he has both physically and mentally over the past couple of seasons.

Now that his shoulders have widened a little and he no longer possesses a real skinny frame, Teheran no longer resembles Martinez from a physical standpoint. But when he stands on the mound and competes, the young Braves prospect still draws comparisons to the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

"The first time I saw him, I thought of Pedro -- a little taller Pedro," Wren said. "I still see that. He's live-bodied. When you watched Pedro, you could see by the way he carried himself that he knew he was good and knew he was going to get you out. He exuded that, and Julio is kind of that way."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.