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This year, Maine doesn't have to prove himself
Mets' Maine looks for encore

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Date published: 3/22/2008

BY RICH CAMPBELL

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

--John Maine walked swiftly off the New York Mets' practice field at noon yesterday, determined to get a quick workout in before watching the Mets' spring training game against the Washington Nationals an hour later. As he strode past the horde of fans gathered around the field, the requests came flying.

"John, will you sign my glove?" shouted a woman.

"John! John!" a group of kids screamed as they extended baseballs and pens in his direction.

Yes, the same player who used to strike batters out while pitching for North Stafford High is now an established big leaguer. After completing his first full season in the majors last season--and a successful one, at that--Maine is now dealing with everything that comes along with his status: The autograph requests, the expectations and the pressure of the New York spotlight.

He's taking it all in stride, believing that the best is yet to come.

"I just go out there and compete, and I think a lot of people see that," Maine said. "I think that they like that and respect it."

Last season was Maine's fourth in the majors, but it was the first in which he had a secure place in the starting rotation. The stability did wonders for his physical and mental approach to the game.

In 191 innings, he went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA, striking out 180 batters and walking only 75. He tied with two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine for the team lead in wins.


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