Bit by injury bug, Braves bullpen has gone from a strength to a question (other notes)

The Nationals don't have a lefty reliever in their bullpen, and the division-rival Braves are running out of bullpen lefties as well. The Braves will be without lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, their main setup guys for All-Star Craig Kimbrel.

In addition, the Braves are without Jordan Walden, the right-handed reliever they acquired in a trade with the Angels, and ex-Oriole Luis Ayala, who is on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. Walden should be back next week, but there's no question the Braves' bullpen has gone from a strength to a question.

What to do?

The Braves have three new relievers - Anthony Varvaro, David Carpenter and Cory Rasmus (Colby's brother) - in the bullpen with the experience level taking a hit. Starter Brandon Beachy's return in mid-June could make the situation better because having Beachy back in the rotation might mean that prospect Julio Teheran could move to the bullpen to help set up Kimbrel. Luis Avilan is the most experienced lefty in the bullpen.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says the setup roles will go on a case-by-case basis until an order can be determined.

Other thoughts:

* After watching first base umpire Eric Cooper miss two calls Monday night at Camden Yards, both going against the Orioles, there will be people that say the 2014 season, with expanded replay, can't get here soon enough. Like it or not, expanded instant replay is on its way. But here's a question: Can baseball have too much technology?

* Is it time to consider the Indians for real? Remember a year ago this week, they were leading the AL Central, but wound up losing 94 games, and that got manager Manny Acta fired. There are plenty of differences between last season and this season: Cleveland's outfield defense is better. The nucleus of younger players is growing up. There's more power with Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher. Justin Masterson is a consistent rotation leader and Ubaldo Jimenez is back, thanks to learning to repeat his delivery. There's depth in the rotation, especially when Brett Myers returns.

* The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, who won the AL MVP and Triple Crown last season, is hitting for a higher average with more home runs and RBIs than he did at this point last season. It's easy to say that Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, but given that he's an average defensive player at best and doesn't contribute on the bases, can he be considered the best all-around player in the game? That's a difficult case to make with players such as Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Robinson Cano.

* Speculation is starting to increase that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will be fired as early as this weekend if the team doesn't kick into gear. The Dodgers have been stung by injuries, shoddy defense and a leaky bullpen. However, Zack Greinke is back in the rotation, and he and Clayton Kershaw give the Dodgers a legitimate 1-2 punch. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Chris Capuano give L.A.'s rotation stability. Mark Ellis, who was hitting .340 before he missed three weeks with an injury, is back, and Matt Kemp's power is expected to pick up his shoulder gets stronger. More offense from the left side of the infield would help, but don't count the Dodgers out yet.

* After watching the Orioles and Nationals play the Padres, it's fair to say that San Diego has one of the best young infields in baseball, especially if they are able to sign third baseman Chase Headley to a long-term contract. Headley wants to stay in San Diego. Shortstop Everth Cabrera and second baseman Jedd Gyorko play solid defense and first baseman Yonder Alonso has been a steady hitter since the All-Star break last season, when he stopped his pull-happy habits and started using the whole field.

* The miracle story of the season so far remains the Yankees, who are leading the division despite a list of injuries and a team revamped with aging - and nearly forgotten - players. The Yankees' age is bound to catch up with them in a six-month season, but their fast start begs a question: Who is the biggest surprise? Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner or Lyle Overbay? Or maybe it is Mariano Rivera, the 43-year-old closer with one pitch who is coming back after missing virtually all of last season with a leg injury?