2008 NEWS

2008 News > 8/10/08


By Rick Cleveland, Clarion Ledger

Funny how things sometimes work out. Twenty-four summers ago, 18-year-old Tom Glavine and 21-year-old Phillip Wellman were teammates on the Class A Sumter (S.C.) Braves.

Glavine was a big-time Major League Baseball prospect, drafted in the second round out of high school. "Everybody knew where Tommy was headed," Wellman said. "He had it all."

And Wellman?

"Phillip was a power-hitting right fielder. He could really hit, but he was not so much fleet of foot," a smiling Glavine answered Saturday afternoon in the Mississippi Braves clubhouse.

The two old friends were together again Saturday night, as Glavine, winner of 305 Major League Baseball games, made a rehab start with the Double-A Mississippi Braves, now managed by Wellman.

Many of Glavine's Saturday teammates for a day either weren't born or were in diapers back in the summer of '84, the last time Wellman and Glavine wore the same uniform. "It's kind of like people sometimes say in life. Everything comes full circle," Glavine said. "It's kind of fun, really."

Somebody asked Wellman if he was going to give Glavine a few tips on how to pitch. "Yeah, right," Wellman said. "I'm going to sit back and watch a future first-ballot Hall of Famer just like everybody else."

Painting the corners

An announced crowd of 6,775 packed Trustmark Park Saturday night to watch one of the truly elite pitchers of this baseball era. The fans welcomed Glavine warmly and then watched him do what he's been doing seemingly forever, which is wear out the outside corners of home plate, down in the strike zone.
Glavine threw 74 pitches over his five innings of work in an 8-4 loss to the Jacksonville Suns. He gave up only four hits, one for extra bases. Most importantly, he felt no pain in his injured left elbow, which has caused him to go on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

"It felt good," Glavine said afterward, his left arm iced from shoulder to forearm. "I was a little shaky with my command there at first, but that's been pretty much the story of my career. If I'm going to struggle, it's going to be early."

Jacksonville had only one hard-hit ball, Russell Mitchell's first-inning, run-scoring double on a change-up Glavine left up.

"Horrible pitch," Glavine called it, shaking his head.

There weren't many other bad ones, although there weren't many really fast ones either.

Glavine's fastball never topped 80 mph on the scoreboard pitch speedometer. He no longer expects to reach 90 mph , but Glavine does want more velocity than he had Saturday.

"Honestly, it felt better than that coming out of my hand," Glavine said. "Then, I'd turn around and see 77 on the scoreboard. You never know how accurate that is, but it felt better.

"But if you give the choice of velocity, location and movement, I'm always going to take location and movement over velocity," Glavine continued. "I thought I had pretty good location and movement, especially as the game went along."

Still loves to pitch

Glavine didn't have to be here. He doesn't have to do this. The guy has pitched 4,409 major league innings over 22 seasons. His lofty place in baseball history is secure. He has become a rich, rich man. So the obvious question: Did he consider retiring when he first learned about the torn tendon in his elbow?

"Yeah, a little bit," Glavine said. "Every athlete needs to be mindful of when it's time to hang them up. When that happened to my elbow I had to ask myself if maybe this wasn't my body telling me it's time to go home. It's only natural. At my age it's harder to put in the work it takes to come back.

"But, at the same time, I still have the desire to pitch. I just have to see if I still can."

Wellman has his own ideas about why Glavine keeps pitching. "He's a pro," Wellman said. "He's getting paid a lot of money to pitch, and as long as he feels like he can possibly still pitch, he's going to pitch. He's a class guy, the ultimate professional. He loves to compete."

Glavine's next start likely will be in an Atlanta Braves uniform. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on its Web site Saturday night that Glavine will take the mound Thursday against the Cubs.

Next season?

"We'll have to see about the rest of this year first," Glavine said. "I have to see if I can still get people out. I had to get to where I could pitch again before I could find that out."

He believes he has. We'll see.