ATLANTA -- At the beginning of the season, Julio Teheran focused on honing his slider into a Major League-quality pitch, a process which culminated in his dominant June 5 start against the Pirates, when he leaned heavily on the pitch in striking out 11 batters and allowing just one hit over eight innings.
After taking a backseat early in 2013, Teheran's curveball has been the most effective complement to his mid-90s fastball of late, thanks in part to the evolution of that slider earlier in the season.
"At the beginning, [my curveball] was good, but I didn't use it as much because I was using more of my slider," Teheran said. "Now I feel like I can throw any count, because my slider made my curveball better."
In Teheran's two starts since the All-Star break, he's thrown a total of 33 curveballs, more than he has in any other two-game stretch this season. The Braves have been pleased with the results: Teheran has allowed one run and struck out 12 batters in 13 innings of post-break work, and the 22-year-old right-hander has built confidence in throwing his breaking pitches in any count.
"When you're a young pitcher, you get down 2-0 or 3-1, here comes a fastball, and then you have to go back up a base, because in the Major Leagues, these guys hit 94-mph fastballs," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Now he mixes it up, he knows what he's doing. I think [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has done a terrific job developing him and bringing him along in those situations."
In 'strange market,' early move helps Braves
ATLANTA -- When Wednesday afternoon's non-waiver Trade Deadline passed, Braves general manager Frank Wren felt good about already addressing his club's primary need despite working within the constraints of this year's thin market.
"It was a strange market in that there was not the same quantity that you were used to looking at and the same number of sellers you're used to looking at," Wren said. "It reduced the number of conversations. We had a handful of conversations today, but nothing that really had any traction."
With Monday's acquisition of left-handed reliever Scott Downs, Wren added quality depth to an already strong bullpen. Over the next few weeks, he will scour the waiver wire in attempt to land a backup infielder -- preferably one who bats from the left side of the plate.
But as things stand, Wren has plenty of reason to be confident about his club, which entered Wednesday's game against the Rockies with a five-game winning streak and a comfortable 10 1/2-game lead in the National League East.
"I think we'll probably have some more activity," Wren said. "But all in all, we're pretty happy. The club is playing as well as it has all year long. So there's a lot of positives."
Over the next few weeks, Wren will continue to evaluate his starting rotation, which welcomed Brandon Beachy back this week, and his offense, which will be impacted when B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer make their expected returns from the disabled list within the next week.
While the Braves would like to add a backup infielder with more offensive potential than Paul Janish, this appears to be more of a wish than a need.
Any player acquired during the month of August must first be placed on the waiver wire by their current club. The player can be traded to the first club that claims him, or he can be traded anywhere if he passes through the waiver wire process unclaimed.
"As we get a little closer to the waiver deadline and the postseason deadline, we'll have a better sense of our club," said Wren. "That's the most important thing. It really doesn't matter what everybody else is doing. It's important to know what we have and what we need. We're not quite there yet."
After playing catch, Maholm eyes next step
ATLANTA -- After resting his left wrist Tuesday from four straight days of light tossing, Braves starter Paul Maholm resumed playing catch on Wednesday afternoon with the hope that he could begin throwing side sessions in the bullpen as early as this weekend.
"I'm hoping whenever I play catch today, it feels as close to normal as possible, and then I continue to progress and get on the mound," Maholm said. "Once I'm able to get on the mound, I can get on the mound every other day until I'm able to throw in a game."
The first day Maholm is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list is Aug. 5, one day after rookie Alex Wood is expected to fill his spot in the rotation for the third time. Maholm is aiming to return to action the following time that rotation spot comes up -- Aug. 10 against the Marlins -- but he understands the temperamental nature of the left wrist contusion that has bothered him since July 10.
"I'm not a very good DL patient," Maholm said. "I'm going to push it, but I also understand the team's playing well and I don't want to go out there and not be 100 percent and have a setback. My goal is to get that rotation spot the next time around, and we'll just have to see how that goes."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.