Jennings likely to be manager in 2016
MIAMI — Managing is certainly agreeing with Dan Jennings. So much so that there is a strong possibility D.J. will retain his post as Marlins manager in 2016.
On the subject, the Marlins public stance is they will revisit the situation at the end of the year. That’s their blanket statement regarding pretty much all decisions for any upcoming season. Plus, there is more than one half of this season to be played, and they are focused on crawling back into contention.
Behind the scenes, however, I can tell you that the club already has an eye towards the future. And Jennings staying as manager is part of those preliminary plans.
Of course, circumstances could change if this season falls apart in the second half, or Jennings decides the job isn’t for him. But the club is starting to gain some traction. Key players who have been on the disabled list are about to return. And Jennings is all-in making this work.
Mat Latos was reinstated a few days ago and pitched a brilliant game, beating the Rockies, while striking out 11. His fastball was between 94-96 mph, which is highly encouraging.
Jarred Cosart is making what the club hopes is his final rehab assignment start tonight for Triple-A New Orleans, which is playing at Round Rock. If all goes as expected, Cosart will filter back into the rotation sometime next week.
The biggest news, of course, is Jose Fernandez has targeted July 2 for his return from the disabled list.
Henderson Alvarez remains a ways away. But the additions of Latos, and soon Cosart, followed by Fernandez will solidify a rotation that actually has been respectable under trying circumstances.
Also, first baseman Michael Morse (right ring finger) expects to join Double-A Jacksonville on a rehab assignment on Wednesday. The power-hitting first baseman is getting closer to being ready.
Third baseman Martin Prado (right shoulder sprain) received an injection on Monday that will speed along the healing process on. The hope is Prado will be back by the weekend.
Some positive momentum is starting to build, and Jennings is looking more the part of a manager. Team chemistry is strong. The players are united. One veteran told me the other day, “I don’t know if we are numb to everything” but things seem back to normal.
Jennings’ transition from general manager to manager was always going to be an interesting story to follow for a number of reasons. First, it opens the door for others with no managing or coaching experience at the professional level to make a similar switch.
Second, it also directly links the front office to the clubhouse. The two haven’t always worked hand-and-hand so closely. Traditionally, the manager serves as a buffer to the executives.
It’s also worth noting the front office input is already influencing batting order decisions. A few weeks ago, when Miami was at the New York Mets, a decision to bat pitcher David Phelps eighth and catcher Jhonatan Solano nine was influenced by data from front office analytics. Some of analytical data also is a reason why Jennings recently opted to bat Christian Yelich third and Giancarlo Stanton fourth. Jennings isn’t rejecting the input. He’s part of it.
Because of Jennings’ personality and his popularity, he is succeeding at keeping the trust of the clubhouse as well as the front office.
Also by being around the players, and seeing them closely, Jennings is helping assess the roster makeup. This is important, because the front office right now is not looking to trade core pieces by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Just the opposite is happening. Inside the clubhouse, the feeling is this team is worth holding together, and to keep building upon, not trading parts off.
The hope is to get as close to .500 by the All-Star Break, get the starting rotation in order, and use some of the current starters as relievers to firm up the bullpen.
If all that happens, the Marlins not only expect to make a run in the second half. They also may solidify their belief that Jennings is their right choice to manage in 2016.
–– Joe Frisaro