With 303 career wins and the right to dream about what it will be like when he's inducted into the Hall of Fame, Glavine understandably could have just gone through the motions of this two-inning assignment. But that's not his nature, and it showed, as he recorded two first-inning strikeouts and was damaged only by Ty Wigginton's solo homer with two outs in the second inning.
"Tommy was great," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose team claimed a 7-5 win over the Astros with a four-run ninth. "I couldn't have been more pleased. He was really sharp."
Like he did so often while previously pitching in Atlanta from 1987-2002, Glavine began his afternoon by getting a hitter to look at two consecutive strikes to start the game. This time, it was Michael Bourn, and one pitch after taking two called strikes, Bourn looked ugly swinging and missing a slider for strike three.
"It was a little bit bigger slider than I would have liked," Glavine said. "But that's solely due to not having the arm speed that I want yet."
Three weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, Glavine features a repertoire that's even softer than it was when he left Atlanta to join the Mets before the start of the 2003 season. But as Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada learned while looking at a 3-2 changeup, the veteran left-hander still has the precision that allows him to occasionally get an extra inch on the corners of the plate.
Instead of strolling to first base with a two-out walk, Tejada found himself the victim of a first-inning-ending strikeout that looked very familiar to Cox and the many other Braves who have seen him freeze so many batters over the years with the same pitch.
"Every now and then," said a confidently smiling Glavine, acknowledging he still has the ability to make his patented changeup dance along the black of the plate.
Glavine's second inning didn't begin encouragingly, as Carlos Lee took him deep to the center-field warning track, where Gregor Blanco made the catch. Two batters later, the veteran Braves hurler challenged Wigginton with a fastball and then watched his drive soar over the left-field fence.
"That was a stupid pitch," Glavine said. "That's one of those pitches that during the course of the year, I'm not going to throw. A 3-1 fastball down and in isn't my bread and butter. But down here, you try not to walk guys. So I just threw it in there, and he didn't miss it."
Some Braves fans who have missed Glavine while he's been with the Mets for the past five seasons provided the veteran hurler with applause when he went to the bullpen before the game to warm up and again when he took the mound before the first inning.
"That all felt good," Glavine said. "Once that happened, I think I started to get a little bit nervous."
Obviously getting to pitch again for an organization that has long considered him one of its legendary figures got the competitive juices flowing more than they normally would March 1. But then again, it's simply part of Glavine's nature to feel some anxiety before most every start, including those that take place in the Grapefruit League.
When asked how many times during his 303-win career that he hasn't felt nervous before any start, he thought the only occasion might have been the start last August after he won his 300th game.
"Every time I go out there and put on a uniform, I want to do well," Glavine said. "You don't want to embarrass yourself, even though [Spring Training games] don't count. You still want to represent yourself and your team in a good way."
Even with all of his accomplishments, Glavine says he still feels like he has something to prove to veterans but relative Braves newcomers like Mark Teixeira and Mark Kotsay, who have never previously played with him. In addition, Glavine feels the same in relation to young Braves like Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann, who grew up watching the early years of his career.
"Those guys haven't played with me," Glavine said. "They've seen me and heard of me. So there's a little bit of pressure you put on yourself to go out there and live up to the billing and expectations for those guys."