The Braves have done an excellent job staying in the thick of the NL East, and they're about to get bullpen reinforcements that could make them a tough team late in games.

Rafael Soriano

, who opened the season as the closer, returned from the disabled list Wednesday, and starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever

John Smoltz

could be back tomorrow. Smoltz is now using a three-quarters delivery to ease pain in his shoulder. If he's healthy, he could give the Braves some devastating short bursts as a setup man or closer. The Braves' bullpen could get another boost before the month is out as lefty

Mike Gonzalez

completes his rehab from Tommy John surgery. . . . Florida's

Dan Uggla

said this about

Chase Utley

to the Palm Beach Post: "He's kind of the

Rogers Hornsby

of this era." . . . Marlins reliever

Justin Miller

credits veteran

Luis Gonzalez

for the leadership he has brought to the club. "I didn't know there was someone in baseball that could come in and affect a clubhouse in such a positive way, but we found him. He brings guys together. He knows what it takes and guys follow him."

Miller has been a key piece in the Marlins' bullpen since being released from the Phillies' triple-A team in April 2007. He pitched in 62 games last season and was 5-0 with a 3.65 ERA. "It's worked out great for me," the righthander said. What happened with the Phillies? "I was in Japan in 2006. I signed late. There was no shot at going to big-league camp. They brought me to minor-league camp as a starter. I wanted to relieve. We broke for the season and they picked up someone off the waiver wire. Someone had to go. It was either me,

Kane Davis

or

John Ennis

. I was the odd man out." . . . Entering Friday, Florida's

Cody Ross

had 12 hits in May. Nine were homers. . . . The Royals entered last night mired in a 12-game losing streak. It started May 19 when they were no-hit by Boston's

Jon Lester

. . . . The Phillies will be tested this month. After closing out a series with Florida today, they will play teams that are above .500 in six of their next seven series. Five of those series will be against teams that entered Friday in first or second place in their division - Florida, St. Louis, Boston, Anaheim and Oakland.