VERO BEACH, Fla. - He was dressed casually, in shorts and a golf shirt, but make no mistake, every player knew who he was.
"Believe me, as soon as I heard he was out there, I got dressed and got out there as quick as I could," pitcher Tom Glavine said after the Braves lost a 5-1 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
Glavine shook hands with legendary Dodger and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, renewing a friendship that started two years ago with a dinner together, then sat down and questioned him about his curveball.
"It's a very unique opportunity," Glavine said. "He was very good at something that I want to get better at. He showed me his grip and how he threw it. It was a fellow lefty helping a fellow lefty."
Glavine grips his curve with two seams; Koufax used four seams, creating a tighter spin and sharper curve. Glavine experimented with the new grip in the bullpen, then threw three curves during his three innings and was delighted with the results.
"I thought everything he said to me was enlightening and made total and complete sense," Glavine said. "I've tried four seams in the past and never felt I could hold onto it, but the way he showed me felt comfortable."
"(Koufax) was amazing," pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. "We were very fortunate to be able to sit next to him and talk to him about pitching. If you're going to pick somebody's brain, that's who you'd pick."
Glavine, who has relied mostly on a sinker and changeup to win 224 games during his 14-year career, is taking his curve out of mothballs to give himself another weapon.
"It just makes sense," he said. "I want it to be a pitch I can throw with confidence."
PROGRESS REPORT: John Smoltz followed Glavine to the mound and wasn't as sharp with his command or as dominating with his velocity, as he was in his first appearance. Cause for concern? Not at all.
"I never confuse results with what I'm trying to do," said Smoltz after allowing two runs in the fourth inning. "I'm working on some things and bringing them along."
Smoltz plans to increase the frequency of his appearances, returning to the mound Tuesday, then again three or four days later. He feels that will help him build arm strength, which, in turn, will increase his velocity.
"That's going to come with getting out there a little bit more," he said.
Reach Bill Zack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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