Work doesn't stop after busy winter for Dipoto

Work doesn't stop after busy winter for Dipoto

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jerry Dipoto may be fresh off crafting one of the most thrilling offseasons in Angels history -- landing both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, trading for Chris Iannetta and extending the contract of Howie Kendrick -- but the work never stops.

This spring, the first-year general manager has been everywhere. He's one of the first ones in the building, among the last ones out, and he is always on the field -- intently eying bullpen sessions, positioning himself behind the cage for on-field batting practice and keenly watching Cactus League games from the first row.

"It's been great," Dipoto said of his first few weeks on the job in Arizona. "Probably the most red I've ever seen in Spring Training, but the players are great -- [manager Mike Scioscia] and the guys run a very good camp, there's a nice culture downstairs. I love the morning meetings and the way the group comes together. Obviously it's exciting to see the talent we have out on the field."

OK, so perhaps Dipoto's roster isn't perfect. But, as the Angels' new GM put it, "If you talked to 30 general managers, 30 managers, nobody's got a perfect club."

Dipoto may not see perfection when he peers down from his upper-deck office at Tempe Diablo Stadium. But he also doesn't see what others would call clutter, or excess, or even redundancies. Dipoto just sees the necessary depth to win it all.

"The next team that wins a world championship with 25 guys," he said, "they will be the first."

The prevailing question as Dipoto navigates through his first Spring Training as a GM is whether or not he'll make a trade. The Pujols signing -- one that came with a price tag of 10 years and more than $240 million -- has created varying degrees of uncertainty with the roles of Bobby Abreu, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis, with outsiders believing a deal needs to be made in order to free up space.

But Scioscia has continuously stressed he can juggle his lineup so all of them are only making minimal sacrifices with regards to playing time. And Dipoto scoffs at the notion that the Angels have too many options at certain positions.

No such thing, he believes.

"It keeps players fresh, it puts them in good matchup situations, it gives you depth, interchangeable pieces. Options. It's what you need -- options," Dipoto said. "Do I believe there's enough at-bats for the players here? Absolutely. And we've talked through various ways of how the players fit. Is it going to be a perfect scenario for every player on the roster? No, but that makes us just like 29 other teams."

Perhaps the only place where there isn't an overload of options is the bullpen -- a bullpen that was tied for the most blown saves in the American League last year and didn't go through any wholesale changes.

In that department, Dipoto will be banking on the development of a young closer (Jordan Walden), the reliability of two premier lefties (Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi), the leadership of two new veterans (LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen) and the emergence of an unexpected arm or two.

"We're going with what we've got," Dipoto said. "It may not be a star-studded cast, but this is generally how you build a bullpen -- you find all the mix-and-match components in the bullpen, you find different experiences and you put a group of guys together. That world I know fairly well."

Dipoto knew it as a tough-luck reliever who dealt with an array of ailments -- none of which involved his throwing arm -- that eventually forced him to retire at age 32. He battled back from thyroid cancer in 1994, survived a blood clot that temporarily stopped his heart four years later, and then, while with the Rockies in the spring of 2001, called it a career after a debilitating neck injury proved too painful to keep pitching.

That led to the path that made him the well-rounded man Angels owner Arte Moreno wanted to hire this past October.

Dipoto worked in every aspect of the Rockies' system for the next two years, served as a scout for the Red Sox from 2003-04, returned to Colorado as director of player personnel in '05, then became an assistant general manager with the D-backs for the next five years.

"I liked his resume a lot because he had played," Moreno said. "I like that. And I really liked the fact that he had a lot of experience doing different things. ... It's also a proper mix of good statistical analysis and good scouting information. Those are the kind of things that we picked up right away from Jerry."

A few qualities others will point out about Dipoto: Tireless worker, perpetually curious, highly energetic, uncommonly nice and admittedly long-winded.

But the one thing almost everyone will mention first?

"He's very passionate about the game," Scioscia said. "And he understands a lot of different perspectives -- from a player's perspective, to management's perspective, to a scout's perspective -- because he's very well-rounded. And he's on board for one thing, and that's winning."

A lot of that winning will hinge on the working relationship Dipoto and Scioscia establish and foster.

Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in baseball, is believed to have had a major say with regards to personnel moves in the past. How he and Dipoto work together, what kind of lines are drawn and which ideals the two share will go a long way towards shaping the success of this organization for the next several years.

Dipoto and Scioscia have had almost daily content since the early stages of the offseason. And so far, Dipoto said, "It's been great."

"It makes my life so much easier that you have one of the best managers in the game who's the most tenured guy in the big leagues, who's had a great deal of success, who runs a clubhouse and creates an environment that players respond to," he added. "That's a great advantage to me that allows me to focus on a lot of other things that maybe some general managers don't get to sink their teeth into."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.