Marinez provides Brewers with comic relief

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Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PHOENIX--During the course of a baseball game, relievers often have ample time to kill in the bullpen, particularly when the starting pitcher is cruising.

Fortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen corps, they have right-hander Jhan Mariņez on hand for comic relief—pun intended.

“We’re very lucky to have him,” longtime bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel said. “He has a personality that’s contagious. You sit here and you never know what’s going to come up. He’s never uptight; he’s always loose. He’s a funny guy.”

So funny that the expressive Mariņez was dubbed “Mr. Bean,” a nod to the man-child character portrayed with physical hilarity by British actor Rowan Atkinson.

Asked if he had any idea who Mr. Bean is, the Dominican-born Mariņez smiled politely and shook his head no. Informed it was a comedic compliment, he beamed.

“OK,” he said. “They say I am funny.”

So funny that Mariņez, 28, was asked this spring to retell a funny anecdote—broken English be damned—during a full-team clubhouse meeting, when humor often is interjected to start the day on a light note. The story went back to last May, when the Brewers acquired Mariņez from Tampa Bay for cash after he was designated for assignment.

Including the 10 days he was in waiver limbo with the Rays, Mariņez had gone 18 days without pitching when he stepped on the mound for his Brewers debut May 22 in a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who had yet to catch Mariņez, even in a bullpen session, put down two fingers to call for a curveball.

Only one problem: Mariņez doesn’t throw a curveball.

Instead of shaking off Lucroy to throw something in his repertoire, Mariņez mustered up his best curveball grip and flipped one up to the plate for a strike, stunning both batter and pitcher. So, why didn’t Mariņez shake off his catcher?

“I’m the new guy. He’s Jonathan Lucroy!” Marinez said with a laugh. “When we go to the bench, I tell him. That was my last curve.”

By the time Mariņez finished telling that tale, with comical facial expressions and intonation, he had the clubhouse in an uproar. As far as teammates and staff were concerned, it was comedy-club worthy.

“That was a funny story,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He had everybody laughing. He has a great sense of humor.

“Jhan has a smile on his face every day. The guys love him. Everyone wants to smile and enjoy their day. When you’re around him, you enjoy your day.”

Merely being funny won’t keep you in the big leagues, however. If it did, Rodney Dangerfield and Chris Rock would be in Cooperstown. Mariņez also did his part on the mound to contribute to a deep bullpen that became a highlight for the rebuilding Brewers.

Despite being worked in slowly at the outset, Mariņez made 43 appearances for the Brewers, compiling a 3.22 earned run average. He pitched 58 2/3 innings, the fourth-highest total among the relief corps, proving to be both durable and increasingly effective.

“He filled a bunch of roles,” Counsell said. “It was largely low-leverage stuff but we used him in other spots, also. He has an ability to pitch multiple innings. He did a good job against left-handed hitters (.255 batting average). He’s certainly a player we’re able to push to something a little bigger.”

Mariņez is not the only funny man in his family. His uncle Pedro is a cast member of “Boca de Piano,” a popular TV comedy show in the Dominican Republic. Mariņez, who has two brothers, was asked if they also made people laugh.

“Not like me,” he said, smiling broadly. “I’m way different.

“It is natural. It is how I am. I like to have fun. That’s me.”

Mariņez, who often spends introspective time reading at his locker, was not bragging or attempting to draw attention to himself. He was asked an honest question and gave an honest answer. And there is a long line of teammates and staff members willing to vouch for his comedic talents.

“He’s one of the most hilarious people on the team,” said rightfielder Domingo Santana, one of Mariņez’s closest friends. “He makes everybody laugh. It wouldn’t matter what language he speaks.

“It’s nice to have that kind of humor here. It makes the day more fun. We like being around him. That’s how he is. That’s his personality. He likes to have fun.”

Simply put, Mariņez has a magnetic personality. People are drawn to him, many in anticipation of getting, at the very least, a good chuckle.

“He’s got great enthusiasm about everything he does,” Hanel said. “That’s the kind of person you want to be around. We didn’t really know him when he got here but he fit right in.

“He’s one of the funniest guys I’ve known. Even with the differences in language, it still comes across. He is a blast to be around.”


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