2009 NEWS

2009 NEWS > 3/16/09


By Mark Bowman
Original Article HERE.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With more than a month remaining before his first scheduled regular-season start, Tom Glavine is in the early stages of his Spring Training. His improving arm strength hasn't yet reached a level where he can confidently pitch with maximum effort on a consistent basis.

But while testing himself during an intrasquad game at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Monday morning, Glavine found himself willing to be slightly more aggressive than he'd been while throwing batting-practice sessions over the past couple of weeks.

While allowing one run and two hits in two innings, Glavine worked at a moderated effort level that he approximated at 70 percent. But during the second inning, he displayed a few fastballs that showed his surgically repaired left arm might still be strong enough to produce a velocity that would sufficiently compliment his pinpoint location.

"Today, stepping up my intensity was a little more free and easy, which is what I'm looking for," Glavine said. "I don't want it to be such a chore. That's never a good thing. Any time you hear a pitcher or pitching coach talk about a pitcher that's laboring -- you don't want that. That's kind of what I felt like during my past two [batting-practice] sessions, that I needed to get a little more intensity. Today, I didn't feel like I had as much labor. It felt more free and easy."

Coming off an August surgical procedure that repaired his left elbow and removed debris from his left shoulder, Glavine is experiencing a rehab process that has been more trying than easy. But the veteran southpaw, who will turn 43 next week, has made strides that have obviously exceeded the expectations of Braves manager Bobby Cox.

"I was amazed," Cox said after Monday's intrasquad game. "I didn't know what to expect, but I was sure pleased and so was he.

"He was throwing much more crisp today. It was a great start for him. We'll see how he feels tomorrow and we'll play it by ear when he pitches. I was pleased, very pleased."

When Glavine makes his scheduled Grapefruit League debut against the Mets on Saturday, he may find it more difficult to fight against the temptation to increase effort level. But knowing that he isn't scheduled to make his regular-season debut until April 18, he has constantly reminded himself that he's still in the beginning stages of his preseason preparations.

"I'm not getting ready for April 5," Glavine said. "I'm getting ready for April 18. I've still got another five weeks of Spring Training."

While facing a group of Minor Leaguers that included highly regarded prospects Gorkys Hernandez and Cody Johnson, Glavine appeared somewhat tentative during the first inning. His repertoire primarily consisted of unimpressive, moderated fastballs, changeups and slow curveballs.

But when he snuck a third-strike fastball past Kala Ka'aihue during the second inning, Glavine displayed increased velocity and gained more confidence in his ability to utilize an enhanced effort level.

"I definitely wanted to go out there today and let a few go to see where I'm at," Glavine said. "But I definitely didn't want to do it on the first pitch. I'm also not going to say I let anything go with 100 percent effort. That wouldn't have been the smartest thing to do, either. But I definitely had a better effort level than in my [batting-practice] sessions."

While Glavine is progressing toward the opportunity to serve as Cox's fifth starter, Jo-Jo Reyes is continuing to prove that he could capably handle that role. While throwing five innings during Monday's intrasquad game, the 24-year-old left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits. The only damage Reyes incurred came courtesy of Brooks Conrad's two-run homer in the second inning.

Reyes' effort prolonged a successful Spring, during which he's allowed three earned runs, allowed nine hits and issued just three walks in 13 Grapefruit League innings. While he'll likely start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett, he can go there knowing that he's not the same pitcher who went 0-7 with a 7.81 ERA in his final 13 appearances (12 starts) last year.

"Jo-Jo had a real good day," Cox said. "He made some real good pitches. His slider is so much better."

Much more confident than he was last year, Reyes is starting to throw his changeup more consistently to left-handed hitters. After seeing this offspeed pitch on Monday, Jordan Schafer, who is left-handed, complimented Reyes.

"Left-handed hitters don't see it much," Reyes said. "They usually just see fastballs and sliders from lefties. If you mix [the changeup] in there, it's another weapon."