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Tom Glavine Interview


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Glavine’s Choice: Add to 305 or Start His Hall Clock Ticking

By Murray Chass

November 23, 2008

Greg Maddux, who will be 43 shortly after next season starts, and Mike Mussina, who will be 40 Dec. 8, have announced their retirements. Tom Glavine, who will be 43 during next spring training, has not made any such announcement. That’s because he doesn’t know if he is retiring or pitching for a 23rd season.

“I’ll have a good idea in about a month when I start throwing,” Glavine said. “It will depend on how I feel. If I have pain and issues similar to what I had last year, I’m not going to try and pitch with that again. It wasn’t any fun.”

Glavine, something of a medical marvel, pitched from Aug. 17, 1987, until last June 10 without ever being on the disabled list. Then his left elbow ended his streak. He came back Aug. 14, pitched four innings and went back on the disabled list the next day. On Aug. 21 he had elbow and knee operations.

“I had a tear in the flexor tendon of my elbow,” he said. “I had that fixed. They also cleaned out my shoulder, which was no big deal. But if either one of them doesn’t feel good, at this stage I wouldn’t want to do it.”

After averaging 33 starts a season in 20 full major league seasons, Glavine started only 13 games last year and won only two. However, with 305 victories, fourth most in history by a left-hander, Glavine could retire and be elected to the Hall of Fame with Maddux, his friend and longtime teammate, in five years.

His credentials need not grow. He has been a 20-game winner five times, and he has won the Cy Young award twice. He has a .600 winning percentage and has pitched more than 200 innings 14 times and pitched 198 innings twice, including the strike-shortened season of 1995.

Why would he want to keep playing?

“Number 1, I still enjoy it,” the left-hander said. “I like going out and pitching. In my mind, as long as physically I’m able to do what I want to do, it’s something I feel I should do. At 42 years old, I guess the prospect of retirement sounds nice. But at 42 years old that’s a lot different than people retiring at 65. I have a lot of my lifetime to figure out what I’m going to do. Baseball is something I enjoy doing and if my body allows me to keep doing it, I will. But if it doesn’t, I won’t.”

Glavine pitched for the Braves for his first 16 years, defected to the Mets for five years and returned to Atlanta, where he lives, this past season.

“Being able to do it at home in Atlanta makes it easier,” he said. “My kids still want me to play.”

And if he wants to play, the Braves would like to have him play for them.

“We had a conversation at the end of the year,” Glavine said. “They’re interested in having me back as long as I’m able to do what I want to do. They’re going to do things to prepare in case I can’t come back, but their indication is they want me back.”

Glavine was told he could start throwing four months after the operation, which puts it right before Christmas. If he suffers no setbacks, he’ll begin throwing from a mound in late January. That timetable would put him on schedule to pitch in exhibition games sometime in early to mid-March, and that, he said, would give him enough time to get ready for the start of his 23rd season.

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