2008 NEWS

2008 News > 3/1/08


By Carroll Rogers, AJC.com

Kissimmee, Fla. Tom Glavine didn't expect to be nervous when he took the mound Saturday for his first spring-training start since his return to the Braves.

But he was.

"I got a really nice reception going out there and warming up," Glavine said of the Braves fans mixed in with the Astros fans at Osceola County Stadium. "Then [another ovation] going out there for the game that all felt good. Once that happened, I started to get a little bit nervous."

To that point, Glavine had been focused only on getting comfortable with his pitches again, not necessarily comfortable with what uniform he was wearing again.

But there he was, toeing the third-base end of the rubber, wearing his familiar No. 47 in navy blue. His stone-faced expression looked the same. As did the change-up on the corner to strike out Miguel Tejada and complete a perfect first inning.

Glavine allowed one run in two innings on a Ty Wigginton homer, but it was a "stupid pitch" a 3-1 fastball in and one he said he would never make during the season. He threw 30 pitches, 16 for strikes, and struck out two.

The only differences in how he looked were a few more flecks of gray hair, and the red and white stripes under each arm. The Braves' spring training jerseys have changed since Glavine left to sign with the Mets five years ago.

But from the inside of that uniform looking out, Glavine has done his best not to make too big a deal out of his return. Perhaps that's why he was a little surprised by his ovation.

"I think I've been more of a story than I care to be sometimes," Glavine said. "We've got a lot of stories in our camp, a lot of great players. I'm just one of them. I was hoping once I got down here and we got going a little bit, that the story of me coming back would be over and gone. And now it's just about baseball. And I think that's happened."

Why would a guy who has won more than 300 games and is returning to a place where was beloved by his teammates and most of the fans, feel the need to lay a little low? As Glavine explained Saturday, there are still pressures.

"There's always something about every year that's unique that creates some kind of pressure in your mind," Glavine said. "Whether it's the first year in New York and you have to prove why they get you or even this year to a degree it's you come back here and this team didn't make the playoffs the last couple years, and they look at me as being a big piece of the puzzle to help get them back there."

Glavine said he's also trying to make an impression on Braves teammates who are new to him.

"You put pressure on yourself to go out and impress guys who haven't played with you: the [Brian] McCanns and [Jeff] Francoeurs and Kelly Johnsons and [Mark] Teixeiras," he said.

With all that in mind, Glavine is trying to keep it simple and focus on getting physically ready for the season. He said he hasn't started thinking yet about the possibility that he'll be the starter for the Braves home-opener against Pittsburgh on March 31. Besides, he said, anybody in the rotation gets banged up and the order could change.

The pressure of how Braves fans will receive him hasn't entered his radar screen. But Chipper Jones, for one, hopes the reception he gets in Atlanta for his first start will be just as positive as the one he got Saturday.

"Once you're a Brave, you're always a Brave," Jones said. "I think that the sting of him leaving has kind of worn off. Bottom line is we need him, and we need the crowd to be behind him. We don't need any mixed reactions or anything like that. He's with us. He's trying to help us win again. That's the important thing."