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Mets name Manuel interim manager

Mets dismiss Randolph; Manuel promoted

ANAHEIM -- What took months to develop and weeks to transpire has now become official. The Mets dismissed Willie Randolph and two coaches early Tuesday morning, bringing an abrupt end to the speculation that had enveloped the team the past several weeks.

Bench coach Jerry Manuel has assumed duties as interim manager.

Roughly two hours after their 9-6 win over the Angels, the Mets announced that Randolph, pitching coach Rick Peterson and first-base coach Tom Nieto had been relieved of their duties. Triple-A New Orleans manager Ken Oberkfell has joined the Major League staff, presumably as the new bench coach, and New Orleans pitching coach Dan Warthen has assumed that same role with the Mets. Field coordinator Luis Aguayo has also joined the Major League staff.

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The Mets will hold a formal press conference at Angel Stadium on Tuesday afternoon at 5 ET.

Randolph had battled rumors throughout the past month that his job was in jeopardy, and those whispers had grown into murmurs during the team's most recent homestand. Various reports stated that Randolph's job security had withered to nothing, and though general manager Omar Minaya twice lauded his manager's work, he gave no guarantees that Randolph would still have a job in the immediate future.

Now the immediate future has arrived, and Randolph is unemployed.

Joining the Mets prior to the 2005 season, Randolph guided them to within one game of the World Series in 2006, but then endured one of the biggest collapses the following September. He faced questions about his job security then, and when the Mets stumbled out to a slow start this April and May, those questions grew more frequent.

Minaya gave Randolph a public vote of confidence following a meeting with ownership in mid-May, but conditions deteriorated again after the Mets lost six out of seven games over the first two weeks of June. Minaya's answers grew more cryptic during this stretch, and following Sunday's doubleheader against the Rangers, he would not guarantee that Randolph's job was safe even through Monday, when the Mets were set to open their series in Anaheim.

Randolph's Mets won that game -- their second straight, and third in four games -- but it was not enough to save the manager's job. The announcement came past midnight on the West Coast, and at roughly 3:15 a.m. back in New York.

"It's like a teaser," Randolph said before Monday's game. "You keep seeing us kind of teetering on the edge of playing like we're capable of playing."

Prior to last season, Randolph signed a three-year, $5.65 million contract extension. The Mets must now buy out the remaining year and a half on his deal.

Randolph spoke at length before the game on the possibility of some of his coaches being dismissed, after reports had placed both Peterson's and Nieto's jobs in limbo.

"It's hard," Randolph said. "These are the guys that I brought here. Those are my guys. They work hard every day. They're good at what they do. So you don't ever want any speculation about them losing their jobs floating around anywhere."

The speculation has now ended, and Manuel, 54, will begin his second managerial stint on Tuesday. Previously manager of the White Sox from 1998-2003, Manuel led the Sox to 95 wins in 2000 and was named Manager of the Year by The Associated Press. He left Chicago with a 500-471 record over his six seasons.

Warthen, 55, became the New Orleans pitching coach this season after two years as the bullpen coach for the Dodgers. Previously a pitching coach with the Tigers, Padres and Mariners, Warthen also spent years as a Minor League coach with the Mets.

Oberkfell, 52, led the Zephyrs to the Pacific Coast League championship series last season, and had posted a 36-36 record to date this year. This was his fourth season in New Orleans after also managing Double-A Binghamton and Class A St. Lucie.

Aguayo, 49, oversaw Spring Training, extended spring games and the Mets' fall instructional league team as a field coordinator. He played for the Indians, Yankees and Phillies during a decade-long Major League career.

The Mets did not immediately reveal job descriptions for Oberkfell or Aguayo.

Those three, along with Manuel, will immediately begin a new era for the Mets -- one that, at least for now, won't be plagued by the speculation Randolph faced on a daily basis. Of the team's main coaches, only hitting coach Howard Johnson and third-base coach Sandy Alomar Sr. -- both exceedingly popular with players and the public -- remain.

Peterson, lauded during his years in Oakland, joined the Mets in 2003 and, like Randolph, signed an extension before last season to remain with the team. Though the Mets had compiled a 4.13 staff ERA entering Tuesday's play, Peterson had been unable to find consistency with some of the team's younger pitchers, most notably Oliver Perez.

Peterson originally earned some public ire after reportedly telling management back in 2004 that he could "fix" Rays pitcher Victor Zambrano in 10 minutes. The Mets traded top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir for Zambrano, who pitched only one full season for them and is now out of the league.

Nieto, unlike Peterson, had only begun his current role with the Mets this season. Previously the team's catching instructor, Nieto took over first-base coach duties from Rickey Henderson in January.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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