Mets' Glavine keeps perspective
Veteran has experience to readjust after delayed start
NEW YORK -- A steady rain on Wednesday forced Major League Baseball to postpone Game 1 until Thursday, which means Tom Glavine will have to wait another day to make his 16th career start in a National League Championship Series. Add to that the tragedy surrounding the death of Yankees right-hander Cory Lidle, and it makes for a tenuous situation for the 40-year-old left-hander, who would have to pitch in a possible Game 5 on only three days of rest.
The emotional and physical effects might throw a younger pitcher for a curve, but Glavine's been through the rigors of the game and knows how to deal with the abruptness of it all.
"We all have distractions that we have to each deal with on an everyday basis, and this type of thing obviously affects us across the board more than usual because [Lidle's] one of us," said Glavine, who played catch during the rain delay on Wednesday to stay loose. "But it's the kind of thing as a professional, you go out there, play the game and do the best that you can do."
Glavine's already had to experience his own life-changing moment this year, when he endured a health scare after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his left shoulder. It forced Glavine to reflect on his career and his future, and it made him quickly understand how precious and fragile life is.
Lidle's death reaffirmed that.
"You understand how important our health is, how important our families are," said Glavine. "Of course, we would have been going out there with a heavy heart and a new perspective on what we're doing. You realize how lucky we are, but also how insignificant a game is."
But Glavine understands that, ultimately, there is a task at hand.
"It's tough and you realize what's happened, but you also have to continue on and focus and handle what you're trying to do," said Glavine, who went 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts with the Braves during the 2001 playoffs after the tragedy of Sept. 11. "It's probably a little easier to deal with than if it happened in the regular season, because you let the adrenaline take over. The more experience you have with the postseason, then the better equipped you are to deal with changes."
The biggest departure from his routine will be having to pitch on three days of rest later in the series. But that will also be the case for Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver.
"Physically, it's not that big of an adjustment," said Glavine. "More than anything, you get geared up to pitch in the morning and you emotionally get yourself ready, and then you have to wait another day and go through it all again."
Glavine said that his outing in Game 1 wouldn't result in fewer pitches or innings because of the possibility of pitching in a Game 5 on Sunday. His approach will still be the same as he faces the Cardinals for the second time this year.
And that includes how he pitches against arguably the best player in the game today, Albert Pujols.
While many teams have intentionally walked Pujols this season, Glavine and the Mets plan on pitching to the five-time All-Star.
"There's a competitive side that we have as pitchers, that you want to try to get him out," said Glavine, who has not allowed a home run to Pujols in 20 career at-bats. "Obviously, Albert is a great hitter, and he's the guy that we're going to identify in their lineup as trying not to allow him to beat us. I think you have to factor in the situations in the game, and you have to factor in the previous at-bats during the course of the game and how he's looked or how he may or may not be swinging the bat.
"But I can assure you, if I've got a four-run lead and he's up with a guy on first base or whatever, I'm going to be hard-pressed to stand on that mound and put aside my competitive side and say, 'I'm just going to walk this guy.' Sooner or later, we're going to have to pitch to him."
Glavine's competitive spirit is apparent. It's why he's been able to win 290 games over his 19-year career, winning the Cy Young Award in two of them (1991 and 1998), and it's why he's appeared in the postseason in all but seven of them, helping the Braves become World Series champions in 1995 while earning Series MVP honors. But his thoughtful nature has helped him extend his career, and it's one of the reasons the Mets have been so successful this year.
"I knew I had to change my approach last year if I was going to be an effective pitcher, which would ultimately help the team win," said Glavine. "I knew I wanted to do what I could to get closer to winning 300 games, but, more importantly, I also wanted to do what it took to reach the postseason again. That's why I joined this club back in 2003, and that's what I wanted to do for this team."
Glavine prepared differently, studying film and approaching batters differently, pitching to both sides of the plate, whether the batter was left-handed or right-handed. It's paid off, as he won 15 games this year, the 10th time that he's won 15 or more in his career.
More importantly for the Mets, it was apparent in last week's outing, as he redeemed himself in his first postseason start since 2002, which happened to be the worst in his career, when he went 0-2 with a 15.26 ERA in the Braves' 3-2 NLDS loss to the Giants.
Career LCS innings pitched
Career LCS strikeouts
Career LCS wins
Career LCS starts
"He's doing all of the things that he used to do all of the time to get you out," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "But now he's added enough variety where he's tougher to read and he still executes pitches. He pitches to all parts of the zone, and he's a very cool customer with a great deception. You can never tell, when he delivers the ball, whether it's one speed or the other."
Glavine faced the Cardinals once this year, winning, 8-3, on May 16 in St. Louis, allowing seven hits and three runs in six innings. And he helped keep Pujols hitless in four at-bats.
He beat the Redbirds last year at Shea, pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up only four hits, with no walks and three strikeouts. Pujols, who is 9-for-20 lifetime against Glavine, went 2-for-4 in that game.
Having swept the Dodgers, the Mets were set up well for the NLCS, because they didn't have to use Glavine twice in the NLDS. Now, Glavine will most likely have to pitch three days following his start on Thursday. But that is much ado about nothing, according to his skipper.
"It's a valuable thing when you go into a situation like this," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "It's very comforting knowing you have a Tommy Glavine, a real solid veteran guy who's not gonna waver or scare in a situation like this. It's also nice to be able to have him start this series for us."
Glavine, who went 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 2006, pitched well in last five regular-season starts, going 3-1 with a 2.24 ERA, including two scoreless performances. He's carried it over to the playoffs -- a confidence booster for the Mets, who had to deal with the loss of Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez heading into the postseason.
"We have all the confidence in the world in Glavine, and it's huge for us to have him going in the first game," said David Wright. "We have momentum from the sweep against the Dodgers, and hopefully we can carry it over to this series. Having him take the mound, though, is a big boost for us."
Glavine has faced the Cardinals in the postseason twice in his career, most recently in 2000, when the Braves were ousted in the NLDS. Glavine lasted only 2 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and seven runs in the Braves' 10-4 loss in Game 2. The only player of note for the Cardinals from that team who is still with the club is Jim Edmonds, who went 3-for-4 in the game, including a walk and a double off Glavine. But Edmonds has only one hit in 15 other at-bats against Glavine.
But as much as Glavine recognizes that his career is close to an end, he also understands the perspective he must take into the game against the Cardinals.
"I understand it's a big game, and it generates a lot of interest, locally and nationally," said Glavine, whose 13 career postseason wins rank third all-time. "But in the end, I think from my standpoint to a degree, you try your hardest to treat it like any other game. Because I think that we get into trouble, as players, when we make the game become bigger in our minds than it is, or bigger than it should be. The best way to do that is not to try and think so much about what the game means or how big the game is, but that it's a game that we want to win. And I'm going to do my best to go out there and give us a chance to do that."
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.