2006 NEWS

2006 News > 3/6/06


By Marty Noble, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- They locker at Tradition Field no more than four feet from each other -- just enough space to fit their five Cy Young Awards and 472 career victories. Otherwise, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez are not particularly close, but Glavine is a perceptive man, well aware of all the fuss about his teammate's toe, torque, shoe and increasingly shaky status as the Mets' Opening Day starting pitcher.

No one had to tell Glavine he might throw the Mets' first pitch of 2006 -- though somebody did.

"[Pitching coach] Rick [Peterson] and I have talked," Glavine said on Monday, "and he said, 'You know, there's a chance you might have to go.' He had to tell me if there's a chance, because I'd have to adjust my schedule if I'm pitching the first game."

And so the Tale of the Toe has taken another twist, one that has been foreshadowed for at least a week. First Martinez excused himself from the World Baseball Classic, then he acknowledge he wasn't in shape. Then came his prediction he would make his 2006 debut no later than the fifth game of the season. Then the pitching coach advises Glavine he might have to fill Martinez's modified shoes April 3.

Moreover, when Martinez threw on Monday, he did so on the flat of the outfield grass -- not on a mound. Perhaps that didn't constitute a backwards step; it certainly wasn't a step forward, either. And time has come when he must begin to made steady progress if he is to fill the role he filled last year, the role Glavine filled the previous two Opening Days.

"What is it, about a 50-50 chance I'll pitch?" Glavine asked rhetorically. He doesn't know for sure, but 50-50 is pretty close to leaving the realm of possibility and entering the world of probability. "I'd think [Martinez] had to get going pretty soon if he's going to make it," he said.

An Opening Day start is a mostly symbolic and ceremonial assignment, but if Martinez isn't physically able to take a turn -- as he said he would -- in the first five games, he will be further behind than the Mets now allow themselves to think.

The difference between starting the first and second games is two days -- the second game is scheduled for April 5. For now, the second game is Glavine's. In a week, me may have a toe hold -- so to speak -- on the earlier assignment.

Glavine needs to know soon, because a change in his work schedule must be determined. He already has looked ahead and done the math.

"It concerns me a little, because I might have to miss a start down here to get lined up," he said. "I might have to have a seven-day layoff. And I don't want to do it on the last start."

For that reason, the Mets might have to commit to Glavine as the Opening Day starter even if the chance of Martinez being ready hasn't been eliminated. And they haven't said -- or even hinted -- publicly that Martinez's April 3 availability is an issue.

Martinez completed his brief throwing session on Monday and provided a mostly positive update -- "Pretty good, I felt better ... everything went fine," he said -- before a golf cart carried him to the clubhouse. He still is working on the location of his pitches, "working inside and out and trying to sink the ball a little."

He said his body will dictate what he will do next.

An hour later, Glavine made his first appearance of the spring, pitching three innings against the Indians. The 13 batters he faced produced four hits, a walk and run. He was generally pleased with his progress and not at all mindful of the results.

For someone in Glavine's situation doesn't seek numerical success as much as he seeks touch, rhythm, command of his pitches and control of emotions. Even Monday, when he made his 103rd "first Spring Training start," he fought the urge to be "gung ho."

That urge made it difficult for him throw his offspeed pitches. His tempo was off. It's March 6. And he has time to accomplish that. Glavine is on schedule, he says, and he hopes he's on course for his most productive season with the Mets. Given his performance in the second half of 2005, he may be.

He would like know, though, when the first half of his 2006 begins.

DH/Didn't hit: An accomplished hitter -- for a pitcher, Glavine wasn't pleased to have the designated hitter rule in effect on Monday, though it cost him merely one at-bat. "It's usually a bad sign when your starter doesn't get a swing," he said.

Glavine already had taken out his disappointment on Cliff Floyd who took his place in the order -- batting fourth, not ninth.

"I told Cliff I didn't think it was that much of an upgrade for the offense," Glavine said later. "I guess the home run was his answer."

Floyd hit a homer, leading off the second inning.

Mentoring Met: Before Glavine pitched and needled Floyd, he spent time in his professorial role. His addressed a class of one, Brian Bannister, the Mets' Minor League starter closest to big-league readiness. Bannister, who is right-handed, has been tutored for most of his life by another left-handed pitcher, his father Floyd, the former White Sox and Astros starter.

"I know it was his day to pitch today," Bannister said. "He didn't have to come out there and help me. But I really appreciate him taking his time."

Glavine downplayed his motivation.

"It was either sit around for two hours, or do something to help" he said. "And if it got me out of PFP [pitchers' fielding practice], that's all right."