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Dan Jennings is learning the ropes as new Marlins manager

Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings looks on from

Miami Marlins manager Dan Jennings looks on from the dugout against the New York Mets during a baseball game at Citi Field on Friday, May 29, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The cameras, recorders and notebooks and the people holding them were waiting in a semicircle several layers deep in the visiting dugout at Citi Field. And then a man cut through the crowd and sat in his hot seat, wearing a black No. 26 jersey instead of a black suit.

Dan Jennings was ready to meet the media before the 11th game in his new role (as Miami Marlins manager) after about a year and a half in his old role (as Miami Marlins general manager).

"I'm having a great time," Jennings said before a 4-3 win over the Mets on Friday night. "I'm keeping the TV off and the newspapers out of my hand, but yeah, I am. It's an honor to be able to put on a major-league uniform. I've had fun and I'm trying to learn every day."

Jennings arrived in New York with a 2-8 record after descending from the front office May 18 without any pro managerial or coaching experience. He replaced Mike Redmond after a 16-22 start. But owner Jeffrey Loria gave Jennings a vote of confidence during batting practice before the opener.

"The guy's got a PhD in baseball," Loria told Newsday. "Let him manage. He's been around for 30 years. I've got nothing but confidence in him."

Indeed, Miami has won two straight since that statement, including Saturday's 9-5 victory.

The last time Jennings had run a team at field level was in the mid-1980s, spending two seasons as the Davidson High coach in Mobile, Alabama.

So after Loria let Redmond go, the decision on his replacement raised eyebrows.

Jennings was a well-liked, respected evaluator. His pro career dates to 1986, when he started as a Reds scout. In fact, he's in the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. But the 54-year-old Alabama native is the first big-league manager since 1977 without managerial experience or playing experience in the majors.

"I know it's got to be hard for him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I've known Dan Jennings for many years; tremendous guy. If that's what they felt was the best move, there are some smart guys over there."

Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale questioned the move, expressing frustration because Jennings didn't work his way up. And Hale took a shot at him over a bullpen situation. Orioles manager Buck Showalter also took a verbal swing for over-using relievers.

"I knew that was coming," Jennings said of the criticism. "People are going to say what they want to say. There's going to be critics. There's going to be cynical comments. But the bottom line is, we have to win. When you win, things change."

This was supposed to be a winning team that could contend for the postseason. Jennings seemed to make several strong acquisitions to join $325-million slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but there have been rotation injuries and underachievement on the way to 20-30.

"We are a good team," Jennings said. "We've played poorly. And I think you're going to see that change. I think there's some accountability in that room that will surface."

There also could be some awkwardness in that room as far as building trust. There's always a chance that Jennings will go back to being the GM after the season, when the Marlins are supposed to re-evaluate.

"Being from the front office, he laid it out flat-out in the beginning that he was in here to be part of the team," said David Phelps, a righthander acquired from the Yankees. "I think he's done a good job. It is a tough spot coming in. He's going out and he's doing the best that he can . . . I think people would be foolish to write us off."

"He's a good guy. The thing that everyone always says about him is he's a baseball guy. He knows the game. He's been in it long enough. It's not his fault that we're winning or losing. We've got to go out and play better baseball."

In 1984, Jennings was a pitcher with the Yankees' Class A Greensboro team in spring training. He got released near the end. That was it for his pro playing career.

"I had much more heart than talent," Jennings said.

Jennings joined the Marlins in 2002 as vice president of player personnel. He's still involved in conference calls about personnel, but he isn't doing daily GM work.

His biggest challenge?

"Just developing a routine, the day-to-day routine of being a big-league manager, and realizing that you're dealing with 25 personalities," he said. "I've managed people before in different capacities in the jobs I've had. [I've felt comfortable developing] a daily routine, and I think that helps me be prepared when the game starts."


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