PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. |—Tom Glavine will be the first to tell you he is a ''feel'' pitcher. He doesn't rely on his mechanics as much as he does on how his pitching feels. And nine days ago, he said it was beginning to feel a lot like Opening Day.
He had his best outing of spring training just before manager Art Howe announced that Glavine will be the Mets' starter on Opening Day, March 31. ''It goes unsaid, I think,'' Howe said after officially confirming the assignment that everyone in Mets camp had assumed for weeks.
''Opening Day certainly was on my mind today,'' Glavine said. ''I felt, with two starts left, I needed to get something going and get more into the mode of pitching instead of throwing and experimenting. I had to almost simulate it: 'Today is Opening Day. Today it starts.' Let's go out here today and have a game plan and try and execute it.''
His plan was to throw more naturally, to trust his experience and instincts to make corrections after he did make a bad pitch, and to rely more on his strengths sinker and changeup than on his experimental pitches, especially a cut fastball.
Glavine did all of that. He got out of some trouble, getting help from centerfielder Timo Perez on a running catch on the warning track to end the first (with a runner on third) and rightfielder Jeromy Burnitz, who retired Brad Ausmus on a throw to the plate in the second. Mostly, though, it was the pitching performance that reassured the Mets.
''Tom has been the least of our worries all spring,'' general manager Steve Phillips said. ''I wasn't worried at all about what he was going to do. I think he threw very well today. Personally, on a windy day, I was anticipating a 10-9 game with as much wind that was blowing. Both sides had good pitching today.''
Even though the Mets say they never doubted Glavine, even though he said he never doubted himself, even though he was outpitched that Friday by Tim Redding (five one-hit, scoreless innings), it was a good day for Glavine. He showed he has the will and skill to turn it up when he has to.
''Obviously, stats down here don't count, but your brain is still involved,'' Glavine said. ''It was hard to feel good about what was going on, even though I felt, in between starts, I was making progress and getting closer to where I wanted to be.''
He and the Mets want him to be on the mound at Shea Stadium Monday amid the excitement and hope of the season's first game.
''Honestly, I don't want to think about it or talk about it until I get through my next start,'' Glavine said, referring to his spring training finale on Wednesday. ''I'm superstitious in that regard. I don't want to look too far ahead. I've got to get out of here healthy first, and then if my next start is Opening Day, then great. I want to make sure I'm healthy enough to be in that position to do it.''
He wants it all to feel just right.
Mark Herrmann is a writer for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.