2006 NEWS

2006 News > 10/16/06


By Ben Shpigel, NY Times

ST. LOUIS, Mo.— Tom Glavine woke up Monday morning to see rain pelting the windows in his hotel room. He knew. Another 24 hours before he would throw a meaningful pitch, another 24 hours of putting his mind through spin cycle. Another night of interrupted sleep, another night to think about the most unusual postseason of his 20-year career.

“It’s nerve-racking,” he said at his locker after learning that Game 5 of the Mets-Cardinals National League Championship Series was postponed. The game was rescheduled for 8:19 p.m. on Tuesday, pushing back one of his starts for the second time in less than a week. “You have to go through it all again.”

At 40 years old, Glavine has encountered nearly every potential inconvenient situation, from downpours to taxi accidents to blood-clot scares, and he is experienced enough to know how he must adjust his routine. The extra day of rest is nice, he said, always is. He said he felt great Monday and would, presumably, only feel better Tuesday. But every response dealing with his physical preparation inevitably evolved into his explaining the other side, the mental side.

What makes it harder, in a sense, is the burden placed on him. Glavine is the one pitcher who gives credibility to the Mets’ besieged starting staff, and he has repeatedly said this postseason that he understands how much the team is relying on him. He has thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs, in victories over Los Angeles in Game 2 of the division series and over the Cardinals in Game 1 of the N.L.C.S., and 19 over all, dating to his final start of the regular season.

So far, he has been perfect. But, in a way, the Mets are almost expecting too much of him. He cannot do everything, and a mediocre start would be devastating considering the contrast between him and the rest of the starters.

“I mean, I understand that, you know, there’s a different feeling when I take the mound now because, you know, I guess with those guys not being here, I’ve assumed a little bit more of the No. 1 guy, so to speak,” Glavine said Sunday.

Then, talking about the change in a team’s attitude when an ace is pitching, he said, “There’s a different feeling when those guys take the mound.”

As well as he pitched with the Atlanta Braves, he was never considered the ace of the staff. He was always surrounded by other excellent pitchers, whether it was John Smoltz or Greg Maddux or Steve Avery, who made the rotation formidable. It took a few years in Flushing, and some unfortunate circumstances along the way, but Glavine is finally pitching like an ace for the Mets.

Glavine has altered his time-tested approach — he pitches inside more — and seems comfortable being the No. 1a starter behind Pedro Martínez. He excelled in the first half of this season, then struggled for a few weeks as Orlando Hernández assumed a greater role. In the absence of Martínez and Hernández, he has been the one pitcher in the postseason who has taken pressure off the bullpen.

Steve Trachsel said his bruised lower right thigh was feeling markedly better Monday, but if there is a Game 7, Darren Oliver would be ready, as would Oliver Pérez and quite possibly Glavine.

“Everyone who wants to take the ticket to stand in line is ready to be served,” the pitching coach Rick Peterson said.

Glavine is not under contract for next season — the only teams he would consider playing for next season are Atlanta and the Mets — though there are several team, club and mutual option clauses that provide for the possibility of his returning to win his 300th game while a Met. For topping 190 innings this season, he can invoke a $7.5 million option. If he declines the option, the Mets could pick up a $14 million option. The most likely possibility is that both sides decline their options, Glavine sits down with the Mets’ front office after the season, and they reach a lucrative compromise.

Facing the probability of not having Martínez until late summer, the Mets could consider it a bargain to have a pitcher like Glavine for another season. But re-signing him may be a wise idea for another reason. As it becomes increasingly unlikely that the Mets will re-sign Cliff Floyd, one of the more popular players in the clubhouse, Glavine’s presence would help fill that void. He is, perhaps, the most respected member of the team, both for his accomplishments and his perspective. There is no off-limits question with him.

After speaking with reporters, Glavine went to play catch and ride an exercise bike to break a sweat. Then he considered what to do with his unexpected free time.

See the Gateway Arch?

“Probably not too much to see up there,” Glavine said.

Dye his nascent goatee, flecked with gray, à la Scott Spiezio?

“Already taken,” he said.

So Glavine said he would play it safe. Eat dinner, probably watch ”Monday Night Football” and hang out. Then what?

“Try to get to sleep,” Glavine said.