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Braves react to Mets' signing of Santana

ATLANTA - Tom Glavine was honest when questioned Friday about Johan Santana and the New York Mets.

"What's the deadline?" the left-hander asked. "Hopefully they won't make it."

The Mets and Santana didn't reach a contract deal by the original 5 p.m. mandate, but they did when the deadline was extended two hours Friday.

The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner is now in the National League East and that makes the Mets - not Philadelphia or the Braves - the division favorite.

"He obviously makes them better," Braves catcher Brian McCann said.

"He's an elite pitcher. But we're not going to fold now. Let's play the season."

The Braves had a busy offseason and so did the Phillies. But with spring training still two weeks away, it is the Mets who appear to have upgraded the most.

"I didn't see how they weren't going to get it done," Glavine said of the contract deal between Santana and the Mets.

New York tentatively acquired Santana from Minnesota on Tuesday for four prospects, but the deal couldn't be finalized until terms on a new contract were reached so the left-hander would drop his no-trade rights.

Santana, who will take his physical today, had all the bargaining power and used it to get a six-year contract extension that is the richest ever for a pitcher.

Santana, who turns 29 in March, was owed $13.25 million in the final year of his contract with the Twins, and his deal with the Mets is worth about $150 million over seven seasons.

The Mets collapsed late last season and appeared to have fallen behind both the Phillies and Braves. Santana - 82-35 the past fives seasons with Minnesota - changes that.

"He's been the most dominant pitcher out there," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Santana.

"A young front-line pitcher was their one real need," said 300-game winner Glavine, who re-signed with the Braves after five seasons in New York. "Now they have him."

But the Braves, encouraged by their own strong offseason, certainly aren't ready to concede the division to the Mets and think only wild-card.

"I don't care what players other teams add," right-hander Tim Hudson said. "Let them have the headlines now. I still like our chances."

"The Mets definitely have a good team," Cox said. "But we've improved a lot and the Phillies are going to be a good team again. It's going to be a tough division. That's for sure."

The Braves began their early pitching camp Friday at Turner Field and it is the extra arms obtained over the winter that make the team think it can compete with the Mets even after the addition of Santana.

"I like our pitching staff a lot," Cox said. "We have depth, which we didn't have last year. We have at least eight legit guys who could make the rotation."

The Braves starters are led by John Smoltz and also features Hudson and Glavine. But a rotation topped by Santana makes the Mets' pitching staff as good as any team's, especially if Pedro Martinez bounces back.

Santana has averaged 250 strikeouts in his four seasons as a full-time starter. He was 36 games over .500 for the first three of those years before slipping to 15-13 last season with the Twins.

"He's tough," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "He's not someone you are excited about facing."

Santana is just the fourth pitcher to get a long-term deal worth more than $100 million. The others are Barry Zito with San Francisco, Mike Hampton with Colorado and Kevin Brown with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hampton now pitches for the Braves and is trying to come back after missing the past two seasons with injuries.