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The Marlins Bullpen still in good spirits

The overworked Marlins pen has found a way to deal with them being overworked.

It has become a running joke. In about the second or third inning of every game, the Marlins' relievers start pointing at one another.

' `You've got three [innings], and you've got three,' '' said right-hander Lee Gardner, re-creating the nightly scene. ``It's more or less to get mentally prepared.''

Lately, it hasn't been any joke.

Gardner had to go three innings Sunday when starter Daniel Barone was knocked out early. On Monday, Justin Miller went in for 2 2/3 innings when Scott Olsen was lifted after the fourth.

''Two weeks ago we were wondering if guys were going to get in or not,'' Gardner said. ``Be careful of asking the question if you don't know the answer, because two weeks later, now we're being used.''

The repeated failures of the starters to pitch deep into games has put the beleaguered bullpen in a position where it will break a club season record for innings pitched if the trend continues.

This year's bullpen has racked up 453 innings, putting it on pace for 556. That would break the team record of 525 1/3 bullpen innings set in 1998.

''We're not hurting by any means,'' Gardner said. ``We're taxed, but we're paid good money. Any innings they want to throw my way, I'll take them.''

I guess for the bullpen it is either laugh or cry, and laughing at this point probably seems more dignified.

If the Marlins can find a way to keep the bullpen together, minus an obvious name, they should.  The relief pitchers have obviously performed well, minus one name, and have built up some sort of camaraderie.  And keeping them together shouldn't be too hard since most don't have enough ML service to qualify as free agents or even arbitration eligible.  Of course, there is at least one exception.  Gregg is arbitration eligible but seeing how he is getting so few opportunities to save games recently, he couldn't cost that much.