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Singing the Bullpen Blues


   Forbes magazine released its annual report on Wednesday that showed the Marlins having the highest profit margin of any team in the majors last season. But the team elected to spend nary a dime on the bullpen over the winter, and Wednesday it showed.

  The conglomerate of Renyel Pinto, Jose Veras and Leo Nunez combined to cough up three Mets runs on three hits, six walks, and a balk in a matter of 2 2/3 innings, allowing a 6-1 lead in the seventh to disintegrate into a 10-inning nailbiter that the Marlins finally managed to win.

   "We're lucky we didn't lose the game today," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It was the second game of the year and it feels like 140 after that one. We preach late in the game we can't walk people. We can't do that because we're going to get our heads beat in."

  Over the winter, the Marlins traded Matt Lindstrom to the Houston Astros for a couple of low-level minor leaguers and a Rule 5 pick -- Jorge Jiminez -- who failed to stick and was returned to his original club, the Boston Red Sox. They chose not to re-sign Kiko Calero, who is starting the season in the Mets farm system. They also chose not to re-sign Brendan Donnelly, who landed with the Pirates.

   They signed a handful of relievers to minor-league deals as non-roster invites to spring training, hoping somebody would emerge. Mike MacDougal didn't make it. Derrick Turnbow didn't make it. Seth McClung didn't make it. Veras did, but the former Yankees reliever was all over the place on Wednesday, as were Pinto and Nunez. Those three relievers delivered 82 pitches, only 40 of which were strikes.

   "We tried to get the job done," Veras said. "We tried to shut the door. We're going to get it. We're going to get it quickly.

    Only Tim Wood, who entered in the 10th after the Marlins regained the lead on Ronny Paulino's pinch-hit single, was able to locate the strike zone, throwing 10 of his 15 pitches for strikes, providing a 1-2-3 ending for his first major league save.

    "Me and (bullpen coach Reid Cornelius) talked before I went out to the mound," Wood said. "He said 'Just pound the zone.' The whole way I was running out to the mound, I kept telling myself, 'Pound the zone. Pound the zone.' These big-league hitters, if you're not around the zone, they're gonna spit on that stuff. They're going to spit at it, not swing at it."

   If Wednesday's performance by the Marlins bullpen is any indication, it could be a very long season.

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