"Our bullpen is the backbone of our club, but it won't be if we keep logging the innings that we're logging," McClendon said. "We've got to get our starting rotation straightened out. I said this coming out of Spring Training -- I think it takes about 50 games before you really know what type of club you really have, how you want to attack.
"This is certainly not a time for us to panic. We'll get things straightened. We'll get that rotation straightened out. In the meantime, I want to make sure we take care of those arms in the bullpen because they're so important to us and they're going to be important to our success this year."
Right-hander Brandon Maurer started Sunday's series finale after getting called up from Triple-A Tacoma. McClendon hoped to get five innings out of Maurer, who only started one of his four outings in the Minors as he builds arm strength coming off a back injury.
Seattle's bullpen entered Sunday ranked 11th in the Majors with a 3.21 ERA and tied for 10th in innings pitched (56).
"In the Minor Leagues, I've been in plenty of these situations where pitchers get called up and the bullpen is basically used to cover all the innings," lefty Danny Farquhar said. "I've pitched three innings and I even did it last year. I'm used to it. Nothing different."
During the first two games in Miami, seven relievers have combined to toss 7 1/3 innings, keeping the games close for the offense to attempt a comeback.
Aside from Giancarlo Stanton's walk-off grand slam against righty Yoervis Medina and a run off righty Fernando Rodney Saturday night, the bullpen has shut down the bats.
"Always got to do that," lefty Charlie Furbush said. "That's the thing in the bullpen. You never know how the game is going to develop. You have to be ready at all times regardless of the situation. Obviously these last couple of days where the starters aren't going as deep as they would like other guys have to step up and pick each other up in different situations."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.