A day after he was declared safe for the 2013 season by Angels owner Arte Moreno, General Manager Jerry Dipoto was asked Sunday whether he feared his job was in jeopardy.
“No, I did not,” Dipoto said before the Angels beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-1, to stay 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s second wild-card spot.
The Angels, whose $159-million payroll nearly triples that of the A’s, occupy third place in the four-team AL West.
After signing a three-year contract with two option years last fall, Dipoto helped engineer the Angels’ marquee free-agent signings of slugger Albert Pujols and left-handed starter C.J. Wilson for a combined $317.5 million.
Pujols didn’t hit a home run until May as the team stumbled, and Wilson endured an 11-start winless streak until late August.
Dipoto also went against the wishes of Manager Mike Scioscia and fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher after the team’s early offensive woes.
Moreno announced Saturday that Scioscia also will return in 2013.
Saturday “was a nice day to get behind us and move forward from, to continue getting better as a group and play for this season, 2013 and beyond,” Dipoto said.
Should the Angels not reach the postseason for a third consecutive year, their 22 blown save opportunities will top the list of reasons.
Said Dipoto: “There’s always something to do different and a way to be better.”
In May, Dipoto acquired reliever Ernesto Frieri, who settled in as closer, but the general manager said that “in looking back at the free-agent class of 2012, I’m not sure you could find a guy to make this group better. Unfortunately, the blown saves piled up on us.”
Dipoto said Frieri and set-up men Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen had a good season.
“Nothing’s ever perfect,” Dipoto said.
What matters now, Dipoto said, “is that we’ve got a chance. Most jobs you take in competitive sports, you want the opportunity to say as things close that we’ve got a chance. And we do.”
More than ever, the Angels bullpen is operating on a quick switch to maximize the most effective individual matchup.
In three innings Saturday, Scioscia called upon four relievers, basing the moves on a left-handed pitcher versus a left-handed batter, summoning sinkerball specialist Garrett Richards for a two-on, no-outs jam, left-hander Downs for another situational matchup, and Frieri to close.
Sunday, four pitchers were used from the seventh inning on, and three pitchers each recorded an out in the ninth.
“Guys have been pitching a lot,” Scioscia said. “Garrett … Downs … Frieri all had a little in them.”
Said Downs: “The guys know the way it is. The key is being ready and getting up early.”
The Angels bullpen has rallied from an August implosion, posting a 2.17 earned-run average in the last 28 games.
Rotation is set against Seattle
Scioscia announced that Zack Greinke will start Tuesday when the Angels open their final home series of the regular season, a three-game set against the last-place Seattle Mariners.
Wilson, working on his release point after a 22/3-innings outing last week, will start Wednesday and Dan Haren, who has won four of his last five outings, will start Thursday on four days’ rest.
Scioscia said he is bumping Ervin Santana to a Saturday start at first-place Texas, with Jered Weaver expected to seek his 20th victory Friday if he recovers well from Sunday’s 112-pitch outing.