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03/31/08 4:03 AM ET

Smoltz ready after Minors tuneup

Veteran starter scheduled to make season debut April 6

WASHINGTON -- While the Braves were preparing to help open new Nationals Park on Sunday, John Smoltz was back at the club's Spring Training headquarters in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., proving his right shoulder is healthy enough for him to make his scheduled return next weekend.

According to Braves manager Bobby Cox, Smoltz threw five innings and registered six strikeouts for the Triple-A team at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. The veteran surrendered three earned runs.

"Smoltz had a great day today," Cox said. "He went five innings, could have gone six. He threw 83 pitches. I think he gave up five hits on changeups. He said he was throwing it too hard because he felt so good. All of his pitches were great. He's excited."

Cox said Smoltz is still on schedule to make his season debut against the Mets on April 6. The 40-year-old right-hander will throw two side sessions this week.

"He's ready to go," said Cox of his veteran hurler, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21.

Smoltz felt some tightness between his neck and throwing shoulder while throwing a side session on March 19. He was scratched from his scheduled Grapefruit League start two days later and didn't throw off a mound again until this past Thursday.

When he first began feeling the discomfort, Smoltz said there wasn't cause for concern. While his shoulder was giving him problems during the final four months of last season, he came to the conclusion that he could get it loose with rest.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.