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Smoltz likely still on his way to disabled list
Braves' starter has good throwing session

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - John Smoltz said he felt no discomfort while throwing Tuesday morning, the first time he tested his right shoulder since he was held out of his last scheduled spring start on Friday.

Smoltz was encouraged because the stiffness he felt Friday was gone. He played catch in the outfield for about 10 minutes and he still appears almost certain to open the season on the disabled list. He could come off the DL to make his first start April 6 against the New York Mets.

Smoltz said he hopes to throw off a mound today or Thursday and then throw again on Saturday. He may need to make a start in a minor league game before he is ready for the regular season.

The main point for Smoltz on Tuesday was to throw without pain.

'I don't care how many times I go through it and do it, you get that anticipation of what it's going to feel like and hopefully it clears out. It has to this point,' Smoltz said after throwing as pitching coach Roger McDowell watched.

'The last time I threw was more or less a chore. This wasn't a chore.'

Manager Bobby Cox was typically optimistic on Tuesday. 'Smoltzie will be fine,' he said.

Smoltz said he will know more as he throws harder 'to creates the stresses' in the shoulder.

Smoltz has made only one spring start. He allowed five runs - three earned - in 4 2/3 innings in an 11-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on March 15. He opened the start with four scoreless innings.

Smoltz acknowledged he needs more innings before pitching in a regular-season game.

'I'd like to but we'll cross that one when I feel like I'm making progress,' he said. 'I just want to get my pitch totals back up.'

Tim Hudson is scheduled to start Atlanta's season-opening game at Washington on Sunday. Smoltz would have started next Monday's home opener against Pittsburgh, but now Tom Glavine likely will have that honor in his first game back with the Braves.

The Braves have an off day next Tuesday and won't need a fifth starter until they close a home weekend series against the New York Mets on April 6.

Cox said he already has talked with Smoltz about opening the season on the disabled list, but he has not made that plan official.

If Smoltz pitches April 6, he could face the Mets' new ace, Johan Santana.

Smoltz wouldn't be drawn into discussion of that possible matchup.

'Well, it's me against me right now,' he said. 'That's the big one.'

Smoltz said he has to remind himself to keep his focus on the season instead of thinking about missing his first start.

'I just don't want to get lost in how long the season is,' he said.

Smoltz's next spring start would have been today against Washington. Instead, Jeff Bennett will start as he attempts to win a roster spot as a reliever and spot starter.