2009 NEWS

2009 NEWS > 4/1/09


By Mark Bowman
Original Article HERE.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- When Tom Glavine faces Major Leaguers again, he'll be making his regular-season debut for the Braves. While facing Minor Leaguers during his final two preparatory starts, he can only hope to feel and fare as well as he has over the past couple of weeks.

Glavine completed his abbreviated Grapefruit League season during Wednesday's 9-3 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. The 43-year-old southpaw allowed three earned runs in five innings and more importantly realized greater cooperation from his troublesome left shoulder.

"He's right on top of his game right now," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Glavine, who allowed three earned runs during the 12 innings that he completed in three Grapefruit League starts.

Obviously, Glavine doesn't possess the same strength that he possessed during his younger days, when he was capturing National League Cy Young Awards and notching 20-win seasons. But with a consistently located fastball that's still resting around 80 miles per hour, his patented changeup and a slow curveball, he's proving that consistent location can yield consistent success.

Glavine's most costly mistake against the Tigers came during the third inning, when he attempted to overthrow a fastball and left it over the middle of the plate for Curtis Granderson to hit over the right-field wall for a two-run homer.

"I tried to throw it too hard, tried to find out how much I had and threw it right down the middle," Glavine said.

Having been reminded that less can still mean more against Major Leaguers, Glavine will now make two more starts in a Minor League setting in preparation for his April 18 season debut against the Pirates.

Glavine will pitch during an intrasquad game with Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday and then return to the mound for one more preparatory start with a to-be-determined Minor League affiliate on April 12.

"Had I not had this and went straight to a Minor League game and had nothing to compare it to, I think I might have had a better chance to get a false sense of security," Glavine said. "But having done what I've done here and knowing where I'm at, it's a little bit easier when I pitch in a Minor League game to know if I'm still at that point or if there is something that I need to fix."

When Glavine began throwing in camp during the first week of March, he gathered some doubts about the durability of his shoulder, which had been cleaned during the same August surgical procedure that repaired a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow.

But over the past month, he's increased his arm strength and found no concerning discomfort in between starts. In addition, as he's increased his volume of pitches with each subsequent start, he's been able to maintain a velocity level that remains surprisingly effective.

"I feel a heck of a lot better now," Glavine said. "When I got here, there was uncertainty about what was left. Then once I got here, when I was going through my only bad phase of the winter in terms of how I felt physically, that certainly raised a lot of questions in my own mind. But I think getting in a routine down here, and pitching in the warm weather and being more consistent with everything, has helped me feel better and stronger.

"So yeah, now I feel a lot better than I did a month ago about everything. But I guess I keep a little guardedness about it. You don't ever know, and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."