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Braves spring training: Glavine passes final test of spring
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Atlanta Braves' Chipper Jones hits a home run in the first inning on Wednesday in Lakeland, Fla. - photo by Keith Srakocic
Listen to The Times' sports podcast Writer's Block, where one of this week's topics is the Atlanta Braves.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Tom Glavine passed his final spring test Wednesday.

The left-hander tossed five innings in Atlanta’s 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers and will pitch in two minor league games before making his season debut for the Braves on April 18.

“He threw great,” manager Bobby Cox said. “That’s what he does. He’s at the top of his game and when the 18th rolls around, he’ll be ready to go.”

Glavine gave up three runs and seven hits, including Curtis Granderson’s two-run homer in the third inning. Glavine made only 13 starts a year ago for Atlanta, going 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA before his season was cut short by an elbow injury.

He went on the disabled list for the first time in his 22-year career, undergoing surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and clean up his shoulder.

“I feel better than I did last week,” said Glavine, who leads all active pitchers with 305 wins. “I had some uncertainty about what was left but I feel a lot better now. I just made one mistake. I tried to throw it too hard on a fastball to Granderson and he homered. It happens.”

Chipper Jones and Casey Kotchman homered off Detroit’s Justin Verlander, and Clint Sammons also went deep for the Braves.

The Tigers had some April Fools’ Day fun with the fans. Granderson suggested to newcomer Gerald Laird that everyone switch jerseys for the day. Laird went to manager Jim Leyland and said it would be a good way for the new players on the roster to bond with the old. Leyland agreed.

Verlander wore Laird’s No. 8 and reliever Fernando Rodney wore Leyland’s jersey. Third baseman Brandon Inge wore the batboy’s jersey.

“It was about team bonding,” Granderson said. “Laird went in and told Leyland that this was about team unity and playing a joke. Everyone went along and it was fun. We needed a laugh.”

The Tigers released slugger Gary Sheffield on Tuesday, surprising many of the players.

Top pitching prospects Rick Porcello and Kyle Perry found out Wednesday they made the opening-day roster. Porcello, selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, and Perry, Detroit’s first-round pick last year, haven’t pitched above Class A.

Both were impressive all spring and Leyland, who is in the final year of his contract, said he had no choice but to keep them.

“They were better than everyone else we had,” he said. “They deserved the job.”

Leyland said he had no doubts and it was an unanimous decision between the organization and coaches that the two were ready for the big leagues.

“If people say we rushed them, I will take the blame,” Leyland said. “All you have to do is look at them and know they are ready.”
Porcello earned a spot in the rotation and Perry will pitch out of the bullpen.

Verlander allowed seven runs and nine hits over five innings in his final start before opening day on Monday at Toronto.

“I still felt good for the most part,” he said. “I just wanted to get the last (spring start) out of the way. It didn’t click but I have progressed a lot this spring.”

Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Laird each had two hits for the Tigers.

Notes: Marcus Thames, who is expected to get more at-bats at designated hitter with Sheffield gone, homered in a minor league game on Wednesday. ... Leyland said he was not satisfied with the Tigers contingent back from the World Baseball Classic. Pitcher Armando Galarraga and outfielders Carlos Guillen, Granderson, Magglio Ordonez and first baseman Guillen all missed most of the spring playing in the WBC. “I wish they were further along,” Leyland said.

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