AJC "With one pain-free inning in an intrasquad against Braves prospects and minor leaguers, reliever Blaine Boyer took a big step forward. He threw in a game for the first time since leaving the 2005 season finale with shoulder inflammation. With Cox watching closely Thursday, Boyer allowed two singles ó a bloop and a chopper ó before retiring Brandon Jones, Matt Esquivel and Yunel Escobar. He struck out Esquivel on three pitches, including two fastballs. "He was impressive," Cox said. "We'll rest him two days and go again, then go from there." Boyer, 24, could barely contain his excitement after the morning game. "My arm feels great," the Marietta native said. "This is what I needed, facing hitters. I feel like I could have reared back and thrown 100 [mph]." He still hopes he can make it on the opening day roster, but the Braves will be careful not to rush him and have an injury recurrence. Provided he doesn't pitch in a Grapefruit League game the remainder of spring, the Braves could backdate a disabled-list assignment for nine days of spring training and activate him April 8 at San Francisco in their sixth game. "Hopefully they'll want me to speed it up," he said of his recovery period. Left-hander Macay McBride is also hopeful, but he'll probably begin the season on the DL because of a slightly torn muscle in the forearm above his left wrist. He doesn't know how it happened ó maybe lifting a suitcase, he said ó but the discoloration from internal bleeding around the injury improved this week." That's good, especially since those two are integral pieces of our bullpen. The starters I think are almost fully prepared; they're throwing 6 innings now in starts. The Braves game today is on FSN at 1, and John Smoltz starts today for the Braves!