Dipoto not immune to Mariano's legend
GM on hand as Yankees closer thanks Angels employees
ANAHEIM -- As part of the farewell tour to his illustrious career, iconic Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has established a tradition on the road: Once in every opponents' ballpark, usually in the middle game of a series, he'll conduct a Q&A session with the longtime, behind-the-scenes employees who never get recognized.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto took that as an opportunity to bring along his 16-year-old, baseball-loving son, Jonah.
Had his son not been here, though, he would've sat in anyway.
"Oh, heck yeah," Dipoto said. "He's got a lot of life left in front of me, but the reality is it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, too."
So there was Dipoto, still not jaded by the game that dominates his life, listening intently to every soft-spoken word Rivera uttered, chiming in about how we should appreciate players before they say goodbye and standing in line to pose for a photo.
For nearly an hour in the Angel Stadium news-conference room prior to Saturday's game, Rivera -- speaking at the site of his Major League debut, a May 1995 loss as a starting pitcher -- sat with 15-20 Angels employees, to answer their questions and, more importantly, to thank them for their tireless, under-appreciated work for the game that has given him so much.
Former Angels and Yankees legend Jim Abbot -- the losing pitcher in the first game Rivera saved -- on May 17, 1996 -- called him "a modern-day Lou Gehrig."
As Rivera said: "It's never too late to say thank you."
"Quite frankly, just having had a chance to experience it, I think it's one of the coolest things I've seen in baseball, that a player who's accomplished what he's accomplished would take the time to recognize people that don't get recognized -- and that's what he's doing," Dipoto said, about an hour before the Angels honored Rivera on the field with a six-foot oil painting of him.
"I think it's remarkable. He has a great heart, has had a wonderful career, and he's the most impactful relief pitcher that's ever pitched."
Dipoto broke into the Majors two years before Rivera debuted and retired 13 years earlier. He knows how fickle the life of a reliever can be. It's why Rivera's success with only one pitch -- record 631 saves, 2.20 ERA, five World Series rings -- is so impressive and improbable.
"And it's not just his ability to spin a cutter," Dipoto said. "It's who he is as a person, it's his work ethic, it's how he carries himself, it's the fact he's probably still the best closer in the league and he's going to walk away because that's what his heart is telling him to do. I think that's remarkable."
Angels leaning on Jepsen, Kohn, Richards
ANAHEIM -- With Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett still recovering from injuries, and not expected to return any time soon, the Angels' hopes of an improved bullpen could hinge greatly on the three live right arms of Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn and Garrett Richards.
Jepsen (28), Kohn (26) and Richards (25) are the bridge to closer Ernesto Frieri and the ones that can allow Mike Scioscia to use his only lefty reliever, Scott Downs, a lot more freely. Jepsen, who has emerged as Scioscia's primary setup man, hasn't allowed an earned run since April 9. Kohn has a 0.94 WHIP in 21 appearances. And though Richards has been inconsistent in his return to the 'pen, he hasn't allowed a run in seven of his last nine outings.
Most uplifting of all: They each boast overpowering stuff.
"We try to push each other," Richards said. "If our starters can get us through six innings or so, we feel like we can hold down the last three. We have a lot of confidence right now, and we're just going to keep pushing each other."
Angels sacrifice speed to keep Pujols' bat in lineup
ANAHEIM -- Friday's game offered up a perfect snapshot of the Angels' dilemma with Albert Pujols.
In the Angels' 5-2 win over the Yankees, Pujols had his second consecutive three-hit game, but was also thrown out trying to score from second base on a single and failed to score from first base on a double in the right-center-field gap.
Asked how many runs a hobbled Pujols can cost the Angels on the bases, manager Mike Scioscia made an important point: "How many runs is he going to get us with him swinging in the batter's box?"
Pujols, of course, is not healthy. The plantar fasciitis on his left foot has forced him to start 37 of his 66 games -- including Saturday's -- at designated hitter, while greatly limiting his mobility and perhaps even sapping some of his power.
The Angels' approach with him is simple: If Pujols can hit, he'll play. Less foot speed, more maintenance and a necessity to often start him at DH is something they'll happily deal with -- probably for the entire season -- as long as Pujols feels comfortable enough to swing a bat.
Besides, Pujols -- .256/.324/.445 slash line heading into Saturday's game -- may just be getting hot.
"This isn't going to heal in two weeks," Scioscia said when asked if it would benefit Pujols to go on the disabled list. "The reason why you would take some time off is to get it to that minimal level to where you can play at the level that you need to. And right now he's at that level. The two weeks is maybe going to make him feel a little bit better, but won't really enhance what he can do right now."
• The Angels still don't have a starting pitcher listed for Tuesday, a decision that will seemingly come down to Joe Blanton or Jerome Williams. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday he wanted to "get through today and tomorrow" before making an announcement. Blanton spent Friday and Saturday working on mechanical adjustments with pitching coach Mike Butcher.
• Ryan Madson continues to throw off flat ground, trying to make as much forward progress as possible without suffering a setback on his surgically repaired right elbow. Asked when he could throw off a mound again, Madson said, "When I don't feel pain anymore."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.