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Soriano nearing Braves return

Soriano nearing Braves return

ATLANTA -- Rafael Soriano has experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the course of the past month. But finally it looks like the Braves right-handed reliever could actually be nearing a return to the Majors.

Soriano is set to begin his Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Mississippi. He's scheduled to pitch on Wednesday and again on Friday. If he doesn't have any problems with his right elbow, he could be activated from the 15-day disabled list next weekend.

"If everything goes well, he might need just the two [rehab appearances]," Braves manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Soriano, who made just four appearances before going on the disabled list on April 6 with a sore right elbow.

Soriano might not be the only addition the Braves make to their bullpen during the next couple of weeks. Mike Gonzalez, who is coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, completed three innings during an extended Spring Training game on Tuesday.

Cox said Gonzalez will rest two days and throw back-to-back days again at the team's Spring Training headquarters. The plan is for him to then return to Atlanta to undergo a medical exam before beginning his Minor League rehab stint.

Along with Soriano and Gonzalez, there's a chance Cox could also add John Smoltz to his bullpen mix during the next few weeks. But Smoltz has decided that he won't give any further updates to the media regarding his sore shoulder, which could potentially sideline much longer than he originally hoped.

In the absence of Soriano and Peter Moylan, who were both lost in the season's first two weeks with elbow injuries, the Braves bullpen has performed admirably. Entering the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mets, Braves relievers had limited opponents to a National League-best .228 batting average. Their 3.37 ERA ranked third in the NL.

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

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