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Pen writes off its critics


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'Pen writes off its critics







The hitting exploits of Dontrelle Willis has made for good water-cooler banter. The pitching staff's scoreless-innings streak, which ended Friday night at 31, kept statisticians busy.


But perhaps the most surprising story for the Marlins this young season -- one that has gone largely unnoticed -- is the success of their bullpen. Many figured it to be the weak link for the reigning World Series champions.


''They've done the job we've asked them to do,'' manager Jack McKeon said.


Behind Nate Bump's two scoreless innings Friday, the bullpen dropped its ERA to 0.87 ERA, lowest in the majors.


It has not given up a run since the ninth inning of the opener -- a span of 18 2/3 innings -- when Jose Vidro homered off Armando Benitez. Opposing batters were hitting .203 against the Marlins relievers entering Friday's games -- the third-lowest mark in the majors.


Benitez, who heard boos when he struggled with the New York Mets last season, led the majors with six saves and hasn't blown one.


''He hasn't given us any of the scares we've read about,'' McKeon said.


Left-hander Matt Perisho said the bullpen is building off the success of the rotation.


''We haven't been overexposed because our starters go long into games,'' said Perisho, who is 2-0 and hasn't allowed a runner in three outings covering 1 2/3 innings. ``There's going to come the day when it's a 4-3 lead and we have to pitch four innings. We haven't had those situations yet.''


Said left-hander Tommy Phelps: ``Everybody thinks we stink. But we haven't beaten ourselves.''


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Phelps has been impressive in his 3 appearances this year. 3 innings with no runs allowed, 3 scattered hits followed by some DP balls. 2Ks and 1 BB.


Bump was a bit shaky in one outing, but has been fine in the other 3.


This may be the year with both of them step up. So far, so good.

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