2006 NEWS

2006 News > 3/7/06


By David Lennon, Newsday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tom Glavine turns 40 later this month, and he looked more like a coach than a player as he tutored pitcher Brian Bannister yesterday morning. But Glavine has unfinished business with the Mets as he heads into the final season of his contract, and with Pedro Martinez hurting, he becomes the rudder for an otherwise wobbly rotation.

Until Martinez proclaims himself fit for Opening Day, there is the strong possibility that honor could fall to Glavine, who at least is healthy enough to pitch on turn, as he did yesterday in the Mets' 6-3 win over the Indians at Tradition Field.

"The most important thing is he gets himself ready and he's on the mound where he's 100 percent," Glavine said of Martinez. "Because if he doesn't, long term, that's going to hurt us."

If Martinez can't go, the question becomes: Which Glavine will show up on April 3 at Shea Stadium against the Nationals? Will it be the one who went 1-3 with a 5.67 ERA in April last season? Or the Glavine who had the third-lowest ERA (2.22) in the majors after the All-Star break? Only the Twins' Johan Santana (1.59) and the Astros' Andy Pettitte (1.69) were better.

Maybe it was an injustice that Glavine finished 13-13 a year ago despite a 3.53 ERA. But with the early hype swirling around these Mets, he knows there are no excuses this season.

"If I have a .500 record, that's not going to be any good for us," Glavine said. "Do I have to win 16 games instead of 13? I don't know what the number is. I think as a whole, if we're going to win, then we have to have everybody play to the expectations that we have. I'm no different."

Glavine casually suggested 15 wins as a jumping-off point, and that would be more like the two-time Cy Young winner the Mets believed they were stealing away from the Braves three years ago. Glavine went 18-11 during his final season in Atlanta, with a 2.96 ERA, but didn't come close to that level until the second half of last year.

To get there, Glavine basically overhauled his pitching style. Rather than live on the outside corner as he had for the first 18 years of his career, Glavine pitched more aggressively inside, hoping to surprise hitters who had grown too familiar with him. He also leaned more on his curveball -- another new look -- and the turnaround was dramatic.

But can it work again? Glavine must continue that fight against predictability on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Manager Willie Randolph described it as a "cat-and-mouse game," and Glavine knows the adjustments never end.

"There's not too many things that are kept secret anymore," Glavine said. "I think at least I go out there without guys being able to eliminate things against me."

Glavine went back to the inner half of the plate yesterday, with moderate success, allowing four hits and one run in three innings. His location was off, but Glavine kept pounding inside anyway, trying to regain that feel before the games really matter. And the advice he gave to Bannister is what Glavine still strives for.

"You've got to be creative, you've got to be a magician out there," Glavine told Bannister. "Your goal is to be different every time out."

It worked for Glavine last season. Soon it will be time to see if the magic is still there.