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Cubs' bullpen working overtime

Cubs' bullpen working overtime

WASHINGTON -- Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry could've checked out what's playing at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night. Both have pitched in 13 of the Cubs' 23 games and were given Saturday night off, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

"We're going to win without them," Piniella said before the second game of the three-game series against the Washington Nationals. "I've got to give them time."

The Cubs bullpen has carried the workload lately and ranked third in the National League in innings pitched (83 2/3 total), behind Colorado (89 2/3) and Pittsburgh (88).

Piniella met with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Saturday to reassess their strategy. One option is to use Sean Marshall, the lone left-hander in the 'pen, more and not just as a specialty pitcher. He had totaled 4 2/3 innings entering Saturday's game.

The Cubs are hoping Michael Wuertz (6.10 ERA) and Kevin Hart can get back on track. As the long man, Jon Lieber is being saved for extended work.

"I've got to save somebody for long, although in the National League, long is three innings," Piniella said. "I've pitched him later in ballgames, also. We'll use them all. It's still early in the year. You've got to get them all sharp, and at the same time, you have to give your short people rest. It seems like every game we play is close."

The Cubs' two games against the New York Mets were close until late-inning surges sealed the wins.

Piniella doesn't need reinforcements, although he is keeping an eye on the progress of Scott Eyre and Chad Fox, both on rehab assignments at Class A Daytona. Both are one week to 10 days away from being ready. Jose Ascanio is another arm Piniella is charting. The right-hander has a 2.19 ERA in nine games at Triple-A Iowa, striking out 13 and walking three over 12 1/3 innings.

"We just need our guys here to get better," Piniella said. "I'm fairly confident they will."

Carrie Muskat 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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