MESA, Ariz. -- Brewers catcher Manny Pina will turn 30 years old in June, and he has played parts of 12 Minor League seasons in a professional career he nearly cut short three years ago while in Double-A.So, when Pina and fellow out-of-options player Jhan Marinez were informed Wednesday that
MESA, Ariz. -- Brewers catcher Manny Pina will turn 30 years old in June, and he has played parts of 12 Minor League seasons in a professional career he nearly cut short three years ago while in Double-A.
So, when Pina and fellow out-of-options player Jhan Marinez were informed Wednesday that they had made their first big league Opening Day roster, it was much more than a mere formality.
Pina made two phone calls -- one to his wife, Leny, who convinced him to bat away those retirement thoughts in 2014. The other call was to his mother, Minda, in Venezuela.
"She started crying," Pina said.
He considered doing the same.
"Wow. It's amazing," Pina said. "Every year, I'm fighting, fighting, and then the last week of Spring Training, I'm sent to Triple-A."
Now, barring an unexpected roster move, Pina will be part of the introductions at Miller Park before the Brewers host the Rockies on April 3. Whether he forms a battery with fellow Venezuelan Junior Guerra remains to be seen.
"That would be amazing, two guys from the same town," Pina said.
Pina and Guerra live about 10 minutes apart in Barquisimeto, Pina said, and according to Venezuelan journalist Wilmer Reina, they would be the National League's first Venezuela-born battery in an Opening Day game. Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Jesus Montero became the Majors' first such tandem in 2013.
The Brewers' other catcher is likely to be Jett Bandy, though he has not yet been offered any assurances about Opening Day. It had been a three-man race for two spots between Bandy, Pina and Andrew Susac, but Susac has been sidelined by a neck injury and was in Milwaukee on Thursday for more tests.
Pina, who has logged 98 plate appearances in the Majors, was likely to make the cut, because he entered the year out of Minor League options. Bandy and Susac each have options remaining.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell stressed that Pina earned his spot. After posting a .740 OPS in 81 plate appearances with Milwaukee last season, Pina entered Thursday's start against the A's with a 1.178 OPS this spring.
"No question, he's had a great camp," Counsell said. "He's played really well. It's been impressive to watch, and certainly we've all taken note of it."
Asked about the possibility of Pina pairing with Guerra because they share Spanish as a first language, Counsell said, "I'm not tied to that at all. What I can tell you, and this is what I told you at the beginning of spring, is there is not going to be a, 'He is the everyday catcher and he is the backup catcher.' That is what I can tell you for sure. …
"Jett has been excellent. The way he has come in and been new, handled pitchers. We've all been really impressed. I like where we're sitting right now."
Like Pina, right-hander Marinez is out of options and entered camp a near-lock for the bullpen, Counsell said. Acquired for cash last May, Marinez held opponents to a .259 average, while posting a 3.18 ERA, in 46 appearances for the Rays and Brewers last season.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.