2006 NEWS

2006 News > 8/6/06

FINE-TUNING BY GLAVINE IS ALL IT TAKES IN VICTORY

By Ben Shpigel, NY Times
Original Article HERE.

Tom Glavine awoke yesterday morning with a raspy voice, a runny nose and, if he listened to the whispers, not much left in his 40-year-old body. Deep inside his brain, which is cluttered with scouting reports, hitting trends and perspective collected through 20 major league seasons, the slightest bit of doubt had pushed its way in.

“You start buying into the fact that because you haven’t won in six starts, that means that you’ve stunk for six starts,” Glavine said after pitching seven strong innings in the Mets’ 4-3 victory against Philadelphia at Shea Stadium. “It gets in your head.”

Actually, Glavine (12-4) had not won in seven starts, since June 23 in Toronto, but he had not “stunk” over the last six weeks. He had just not been the same pitcher he was earlier, when he plowed through all comers to gain the inside track for his third Cy Young award.

Those dreams have since faded, along with illusions of capturing his 300th career victory this season. Glavine, who has 287 victories, will settle for fixing his mechanical flaws, clearing his head and getting ready for October. The results, he said, will come.

“A lot of this is mental, absolutely,” Glavine said. “I know I don’t feel 100 percent locked into my mechanics, and that snowballs into not trusting yourself.”

Glavine threw 107 pitches yesterday, and he said he wanted only one back — the fastball that Ryan Howard clubbed to left field for a three-run homer in the first inning.

He recorded 16 ground-ball outs, evidence that his changeup, which lacked precision in recent starts, was back. Glavine rarely fell behind in the count, and that allowed him to throw more curveballs and sinkers.

“I feel good about the process,” Glavine said. “I just need to do this more consistently.”

Aside from the flulike symptoms, Glavine said he felt fine physically: not tired, not worn down.

When Manager Willie Randolph was asked before the game if he had considered skipping Glavine’s turn in the rotation, he said he had, but not for long.

“With certain pitchers, more rest isn’t good,” Randolph said. “Glavine’s a prime example. I don’t think he needs to reinvent himself or anything. I think he needs to just pitch.”

It is not that simple, though. To get to the point where he can simply pitch, Glavine said, he has to stop thinking about what he is doing wrong. And he is not there yet. A golf nut, Glavine likened his frame of mind to something a friend once told him about golf: “This game would be a lot easier if you could just get your mind out of the way.”

In discussions with Glavine, the pitching coach Rick Peterson often asks him to elaborate on how he felt when he threw the one-hit shutout that clinched the 1995 World Series for the Braves.

“If you took a black box and recorded a pitcher’s thoughts during a game and listened to them when he’s doing well and when he isn’t, there’s a huge difference,” Peterson said. “It’s not like Tommy’s lost at sea here. Over 100 pitches, the difference between a great start and a good one is, what, two pitches? So that means that you have to be 2 percent better. That’s not much for a pitcher like Tom Glavine.”

Glavine went through a similar process last summer when, mired in an awful slump, he abandoned his approach of changing speeds and throwing down-and-away changeups. He resurrected his curveball and started to throw inside more. The success rejuvenated his career. Because of that, he said, fixing his problems now does not seem as daunting.

The Mets helped Glavine by rapping three consecutive hits to open the first inning, cutting the deficit to 3-1, but Phillies starter Jon Lieber buckled down to retire the next 17 hitters. Then he made his worst throw of the game.

With two outs in the sixth, Carlos Beltrán tapped a check-swing comebacker to Lieber, who threw the ball down the right-field line. Carlos Delgado roped the next pitch for a single to left-center, sending Beltrán to third, and David Wright blooped a single that neither shortstop Jimmy Rollins nor left fielder Pat Burrell seemed to want, allowing Beltrán to score. Endy Chávez followed by cracking a two-run double to left-center field. In a five-pitch span, Lieber’s outing had unraveled and the Mets led, 4-3.

Aaron Heilman pitched a scoreless eighth, and Glavine watched the nerve-racking final inning on a clubhouse television.

Billy Wagner allowed a leadoff single to Howard. He struck out the next two hitters, then gave up a pinch-hit single to Chase Utley and worked a full count to the pinch-hitter Mike Lieberthal.

Glavine said he closed his eyes and did not see Lieberthal turn on a slider and rip a grounder down the third-base line. Wright dived to grab it, then threw out Lieberthal by a few feet.

“I heard, ‘Diving stop by David Wright,’ ” Glavine said. “Then I opened my eyes to make sure he made a good throw.”