2006 NEWS

2006 News > 2/27/06


By Guy Curtright, Atlanta-Journal Constitution

Port St. Lucie, Fla. Turning 40 is troubling enough for any baseball player. Having it marked twice makes it even tougher.

Although Tom Glavine's birthday isn't until March 25, his wife, Chris, threw the party in Alpharetta before he left for spring training with the New York Mets.

"Some people think I'm already 40, and I still have a month to go," Glavine said. "But getting a little older doesn't bother me. I feel great. To me, 40 is just a number. It doesn't mean all that much."

There is one number, however, that is very meaningful to the former Braves left-hander. With 25 more victories, Glavine would become the 23rd pitcher to reach 300 wins. Only 10 have done it in the past 50 years.

"Unless my arm falls off, I'm not planning on getting this close to 300 wins and shutting it down," Glavine said. "It's the benchmark for pitchers. I sure hope 300-game winners aren't extinct."

Glavine left Atlanta to sign with the Mets as a free agent in 2003 with 242 victories. But after winning at least 20 games on five occasions for the Braves, he was 33-41 in his first three seasons with the Mets.

A bounce-back final three months in 2005, however, has left Glavine rejuvenated and anticipating the push toward 300 victories.

"I had a great second half, and I'm looking forward to picking up where I left off," Glavine said. "There are different things I can do now. I'm not so locked into doing things one way, like I had been.

"That gives me a good feeling. I'm excited. I have more options now, which is fun."

Glavine had fallen into a very hittable pattern, and his old team made the left-hander pay the most. The Braves battered their former teammate.

"I had to change my style and erase the scouting report," said Glavine, who had a 2.22 ERA in the second half. "I had to make it harder for guys to stand in the box and zero in on one or two pitches in one location.

"I pitched inside more and threw my breaking ball more. I also changed my sequence of pitches. Now there is a question in the hitter's mind about what I'm trying to do."

Glavine, who finished 13-13 with a 3.53 ERA, might be closer to 300 if he had received more run support and the Mets' bullpen been better. But the goal is still reachable in two seasons.

"It's important for me to be able to do it in two years," Glavine said. "After that, I don't know how much longer I'm willing to keep pitching. My family is getter tougher and tougher to leave, and I can't play this game forever.

"My perfect plan is to get to 300 and then step away if I want to. I don't know about pitching for three more years. I don't want to just hang around trying to win a few more games."

Glavine, who played his first 16 seasons with the Braves, doesn't even know where he'll be pitching next year. He is in the final year of the contract he signed to leave Atlanta.

Is there a chance of Glavine, accused by some fans of turning his back on his old team, returning to Atlanta and winning his 300th game for the Braves?

"There is just one or two places I want to play next year," Glavine said. "I've enjoyed my time in New York, and I obviously enjoyed my time in Atlanta. I still live there. I really can't see myself going anywhere else.

"But then again, I guess you never know. If the Mets and the Braves don't want me, I'd have to cross that bridge. I hope that isn't the case, though. It was hard enough changing teams before."

Even with the Braves and Mets expected to battle for first place in the National League East this season, no one in the Atlanta dugout will be rooting against Glavine to win 300.

"I sure want to see Tommy get it," manager Bobby Cox said in the Braves camp at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "He was really good in the second half last season. The bullpen blew some games for him, but that won't happen with Billy Wagner there this season."

"I made the comment a few years ago that I didn't think there would be any more 300-game winners, so I've already been proven wrong twice [by Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux]," Braves ace John Smoltz said. "I sure hope that I'm proven wrong at least one more time."

"I faced him so many years, now I get a chance to catch him," Paul Lo Duca, obtained by the Mets from Florida, said of Glavine. "He's a future Hall of Famer. I'd love to catch his 300th win."