ATLANTA -- It was only a simulated game, but you could see its importance etched on the faces of Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox.
Steve Avery worked from the Turner Field mound for the first time as a Brave Friday afternoon and showed flashes of his old form. He ended his three-inning stint with a strikeout of Wally Joyner and indicated he felt better than he has in years.
"I felt like I was going as hard as I could, and I didn't feel tired out," he said. "My strength felt 100 times better than it has any time this spring and even last year."
Watching from the dugout steps, Glavine liked what he saw during Avery's 50-pitch performance.
"He's got some good movement on his pitches, and he's throwing his curve," Glavine said. "He told me this spring he hasn't been able to do that in years because he felt he didn't have the arm strength."
Avery threw three pitches -- fastball, changeup and curve -- for strikes. His location wasn't great, but he threw his curve 10 times and hit the strike zone nine times. Joyner came away impressed, as did catcher Eddie Perez.
"Today he was throwing cheese," Perez said. "He was throwing harder than he was this spring."
Avery isn't ready to be activated yet, but he's getting closer. He will start for Class A Macon in Savannah Wednesday, then work in Macon against Asheville April 17. If all goes well, he'll make a third start with Class AA Greenville April 22 and the Braves will evaluate his progress.
"There's a big difference between when I throw the ball really good and when I don't," Avery said. "There's too big a gap right now. I don't want to come back (too soon) and fool myself through five innings. I want to be where I have some weapons. Last year I had a pocketknife. I want to go in with a submachine gun."
If Avery, who won't turn 30 until Friday, can make it back from last August's rotator cuff surgery, he would provide a big boost to the rotation. He probably would jump into the rotation as the fifth starter, a job that's up for grabs right now between John Burkett, Bruce Chen and Luis Rivera.
Though his rib cage injury has improved slightly, Brian Jordan probably will go on the disabled list this weekend.
After describing the pain in his right side as "a knife sitting right there" Friday, it's unlikely he'll show trainers sufficient improvement during the next two days to remain active.
If Jordan does on the disabled list, the most likely candidates to be called up from Class AAA Richmond are Brian Hunter or George Lombard.
"I can't see myself playing this weekend unless a miracle happens," said Jordan, who received a cortisone shot Wednesday for a strained rib-cage muscle. "I'd rather miss 15 days than three months."
Jordan, who hasn't played since opening day, would be eligible to play again April 19 if he's placed on the disabled list. It's not an easy decision, though the cold weather that's forecast in Chicago and Milwaukee next week might make it easier to leave him behind in Atlanta.
"What's important is how he feels over the next couple of days," general manager John Schuerholz said.
SEANEZ NOT READY:
Reliever Rudy Seanez is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but he won't be ready until the team returns from next week's trip. He plans to accompany the club to Chicago and test his strained lateral muscle there Monday.
"It's maddening to be here and not do anything," he said.
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