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Glavine happy to be back 'on this side again'

POSTED: February 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.
/The Associated Press

Tom Glavine shows off his new jersey under the watchful eyes of general manager Frank Wren, and manager Bobby Cox, right, during a news conference Nov. 19 when the Braves announced signing the pitcher to a one-year contract.

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ATLANTA — Tom Glavine stepped into the Atlanta Braves’ clubhouse Friday and felt right at home.

"I walked though the door and it’s like, oh yeah, I’m on this side again," he said. "I’ll have that from time to time, but I think it will go away. I think it will go away quickly.

"It’s nowhere near what it was like going to New York," the pitcher added. "At least I’m familiar with this place and familiar with a lot of guys here. So it’s not like I’m walking into the unknown."

After five years with the New York Mets, Glavine re-signed this offseason with Atlanta, where he spent his first 16 years in the major leagues.

He said five years were not enough to make him feel comfortable turning for the visitor’s clubhouse at Turner Field, and he never felt good about leaving his family behind in Atlanta every season.

The 303-game winner showed up Friday for the start of Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell’s conditioning camp, and it was a sweet homecoming.

Glavine, who will celebrate his 42nd birthday next month at spring training, joined John Smoltz and Greg Maddux as the leaders of the Braves’ rotation most of the 1990s. He was the winning pitcher for Atlanta in the clinching game of the 1995 World Series against Cleveland.

Because he wanted to be home with his family, Glavine turned down a $13 million option with the Mets for 2008, taking a $3 million buyout, and signed an $8 million, one-year deal with the Braves.

"It’s a different feeling going to spring training, because when I was going to New York, I looked forward to the season, but in the back of my mind I knew I was leaving for nine months," he said. "And that was always the bittersweet side of the excitement of each new season. Now, knowing that after six weeks of spring training I’m coming back home, it has a different feel to it."

Glavine will follow Smoltz and Tim Hudson atop the rotation for a Braves team that missed the playoffs the past two years.

"I’ve been looking forward to spring training, so this is a little bit of an appetizer, so to speak," Glavine said of the voluntary conditioning camp. "I had a good winter working out and everything feels good."

Lack of pitching depth was a problem for the Braves last year, so signing Glavine was a top priority for new general manager Frank Wren.

Glavine entered the familiar clubhouse and found his name written in a black marker above his locker; new nameplates for the season haven’t arrived. He threw to bullpen coach and former catcher Eddie Perez, who said the left-hander looked better than ever.

"Now he’s got cutters and all that stuff," Perez said. "He throws really good. He can get people out.

"He threw nice and easy, working the corners. That’s what these kids need to learn. It’s good to have him back."

Perez predicted young Braves left-hander Chuck James "has got to learn something" from watching Glavine. James, coming off his second consecutive 11-win season, is the favorite to be the Braves’ fourth starter.

Mike Hampton, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2005 due to two elbow operations, has been throwing in Arizona and didn’t attend Friday’s workout.



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