2009 NEWS

2009 NEWS > 1/5/09


By Mark Bowman, MLB.com
Original Article HERE.

ATLANTA -- While attempting to fight the anxiety created by uncertainty, Tom Glavine is growing more confident about prolonging his storied pitching career.

Thoughts of retirement have diminished while he's enjoyed multiple pain-free throwing sessions over the past few weeks. But Glavine knows his true test will likely arrive next week, when he hopes to begin throwing off a mound.

"So far everything has been good," Glavine said early Monday evening. "I have certainly been encouraged with everything that I've done. But you really never know until you get on the mound and really let it go. Until then, I'm keeping my feelings in check."

When Glavine had his left elbow and left shoulder surgically repaired in August, it was impossible for him to ignore the possibility that he may never again have the opportunity to improve his career total of 305 wins -- the fourth-most victories for a left-hander in Major League history.

But motivated by the desire to not end his career in the injury-marred fashion that the 2008 season brought, the 42-year-old lefty dedicated himself to a rehab program that began reaping benefits in mid-December, when he began throwing without the discomfort that he'd experienced most of this decade.

Glavine began throwing from a distance of 120 feet just before Christmas and then took a few weeks off before resuming this exercise again on Monday. He plans to do this again on Wednesday and Friday, with the hope that he'll gain enough confidence to begin throwing off a mound early next week.

"My arm hasn't felt this good in a long time," Glavine said. "The day-to-day stuff that bothered me at this time last year isn't bothering me. That is obviously very encouraging."

Once Glavine begins exerting himself during these mound sessions, he'll provide himself and the Braves a better indication of what he's capable of doing during the upcoming season.

Barring the possibility that he's offended by a financial offer made by the Braves, Glavine has no desire to pitch anywhere other than Atlanta. Nor does he have the desire to go to Spring Training with a Minor League contract or any sense of uncertainty about his health.

Knowing that it does him no good to attempt to accelerate the process just to make sure he's ready by the start of Spring Training, Glavine will allow his arm to provide his timetable.

In the event that he's still not proven to himself and the Braves that he can pitch by the time camp opens, Glavine is prepared to remain in Atlanta to continue throwing until he reaches a point where it's obvious whether he's healthy or destined for immediate retirement.

"I don't have any interest in going to Spring Training to try to make the team or attempt to prove that I'm healthy enough to pitch," Glavine said. "I'll know before I go down there."

The pitching-hungry Braves remain interested in the possibility of re-signing both Glavine and John Smoltz, who is attempting to return from right shoulder surgery.

But for now, they can only monitor their progress and hope that these organizational icons are able to enjoy at least one more season in Atlanta together, minus the injuries that ruined last season's reunion.

Regarded as one of the most determined pitchers to stand on a mound, Glavine made 672 starts and compiled 4,361 1/3 innings before making his first career trip to the disabled list last season. A torn flexor tendon in his left elbow would necessitate two more trips and lead to the August surgical procedure, during which Dr. James Andrews also cleaned some tissue around the veteran hurler's left labrum.

To provide himself a chance to pitch or even enjoy the game of touch football that he shared with his sons on Monday afternoon, Glavine had to have his elbow surgically repaired. The cleaning of his shoulder provided the opportunity to avoid some of the discomfort that has been present for most of the past two decades.

Many of the Braves have often talked about the shoulder pain that Glavine regularly ignored when he religiously took the mound during the 1990s. In fact, during his retirement address last month, Greg Maddux took time to once again recognize this dedication.

"One of the biggest things I learned pitching with Glavine was to realize you don't have to be 100 percent to win," Maddux said. "You have to take the ball and you have to go out there. That's what he taught me.

"Sometimes it's really easy to say, 'I need another day or two.' But in Atlanta, we pitched. Tommy led the way with that. He showed everybody that if you go out there, if you could throw the ball over the plate, you had a chance to win, no matter how bad you felt."

For the first time in his recent memory, Glavine is actually feeling good and realizing that it's far too early for him to begin worrying about the possibility that he's already thrown his final pitch.

"[Retirement] has crossed my mind," Glavine said. "I think I've prepared myself to deal with that question. But in my mind I want to pitch, and that's why I haven't retired."