SARASOTA, Fla. — On Thursday morning, in a clubhouse full of budding prospects under 25, a pair of seasoned pitchers and their former manager reunited for the first time since some of their teammates were in elementary school.

Orioles bench coach Fredi Gonzalez, closer Craig Kimbrel (35) and pitcher Julio Teheran (33), signed to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation Wednesday, were in Atlanta together from 2011 to 2014.

Now they are in the same organization again, this time in orange.

“We just looked at each other and we’re like, ‘We’re getting old,’” Teheran said. “It’s special to see guys you played with earlier in your career and now you get to see them again.”

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Although Kimbrel has stayed healthy and on the field over the last three seasons, Teheran’s journey has been a bit of a roller coaster. And, while Kimbrel’s spot as the Orioles’ closer is secure, Teheran, who arrived at camp Thursday, is trying to get on the 26-man roster.

“I’m just happy to be here and to try to make the team and try to be a part of this special group,” he said.

Teheran spent the first nine years of his career with the Braves, then signed a one-year deal with the Angels for 2020. He posted a 10.05 ERA in the pandemic-shortened season, leading him to a minor league deal with the Tigers for 2021.

Then came the shoulder strain.

He didn’t pitch in the majors for two years, instead heading to independent ball and winter leagues. In Staten Island, New York, and later Mexico, Teheran reworked his arsenal. He changed his pitch mix, increasing usage of his cutter and sinker to compensate for the dip in velocity he has experienced in recent years. He tinkered with his arm slot and his grip, leading to more movement on all of his pitches.

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After a stint in the minors to begin 2023, he ended up back in the majors last May with the Brewers. Teheran started 11 games, pitching to a 4.74 ERA, before a right hip impingement sent him to the injured list. He returned in late September, pitching three games out of the bullpen.

The changes he made while he was away from the majors made a big difference, he said, and he’s confident he can continue to build on them with Baltimore.

“The hitters, they told me I looked like a new pitcher,” he said. “For me it was like, OK, that was my goal to come back and look like a new, different guy. Especially after throwing a long time in the league, they get to know everything that you do.”

Even with Kyle Bradish and John Means set to start the season on the injured list, the Orioles have five starters in Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin. Teheran could be a depth rotation piece or a long reliever. He said he is open to any role.

“To be honest, I’m at the point in my career where I don’t really complain about anything,” he said. “I know whenever they need you to do something you need to be able to do it. That’s what my mentality is right now.”

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He will spend the rest of camp building up as a starter and will make his first spring training game appearance this weekend.

Regardless of where Teheran ends up, Gonzalez thinks just having him in the clubhouse will be an asset. The former Braves manager regularly uses Teheran as an example to Kremer and other young pitchers, showcasing how a rough start to a career doesn’t mean they can’t go on to have a long, prosperous one. Gonzalez expects him to be a mentor and an example.

“Watching his growth makes me happy,” Gonzalez said. “It makes me happy that we brought him here.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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