- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2011

ANAHEIM, CALIF. (AP) - Jerry Dipoto believes the relationship between pitchers and catchers comprises 90 percent of baseball. Perhaps that’s why the former major league pitcher believes he’ll get along quite well with old catcher Mike Scioscia in their new partnership with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Angels introduced Dipoto as their new general manager on Saturday, ending owner Arte Moreno’s monthlong search for a strong, experienced executive who will get better value and more playoff appearances from the highly paid roster led by Scioscia, Los Angeles’ respected manager.

“It’s an organization that’s only moving forward, that has championship aspirations,” Dipoto said. “That’s what I hold every day. We’ll continue to build that from the minor leagues through the major league level.”

Dipoto replaces Tony Reagins, who resigned two days after the Angels won 86 games, but finished 10 games behind Texas in the AL West. Although Reagins was in charge, it’s widely assumed that Scioscia has had a huge role running this team for much of his successful 12-year tenure.

But the prospect of working with Scioscia was exciting to Dipoto, who spent the past six seasons as an Arizona Diamondbacks executive. Although they haven’t crossed paths in their careers, they immediately took to each other in a meeting Friday.

“I’ve been around so many strong baseball people and strong personalities throughout the years,” Dipoto said at a news conference attended by his wife and three children. “I’ve got a lot of friends and people I trust that have known (Scioscia) for far longer. You need a strong manager. You need somebody who can make sure everything from the clubhouse, from the dugout out is strong. … Mike is the best there is.”

Moreno was eager for a fresh start for the Angels, who have missed the playoffs in the past two seasons after making six of the previous eight postseasons. Los Angeles hadn’t hired a significant executive from outside its own organization for several years, but Dipoto will have the latitude to bring in an entirely new staff of assistants and talent evaluators.

“We had reached a level where we were sort of bumping our heads against the ceiling, and we needed someone to drive us forward,” Moreno said. “I don’t think we’re that far off.”

After several high-profile trades and free-agent signings _ and several big names that got away _ during Reagins‘ tenure, Moreno wants the Angels to return to the philosophy of building from within, using draft picks and the minor leagues to cultivate talent. Moreno also said he won’t hesitate to spend top dollar again, postulating that their payroll will be “in the ballpark” of last season’s roughly $140 million layout, the fourth-biggest in baseball.

Although Dipoto is just 43, he has accumulated experience in every area of baseball since his playing career ended in Colorado in 2000.

Dipoto spent much of his final major league season on the disabled list with a neck injury, and he used the time to prepare for his next career. Dan O’Dowd allowed Dipoto to sit in on the Rockies’ draft and personnel meetings, and he has been studying ever since.

Dipoto has worked closely with Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. They moved together from Colorado to Boston, where they worked closely with Theo Epstein, and on to Arizona for the 2006 season when Byrnes got the Diamondbacks‘ top job.

When Arizona fired Byrnes last year, Dipoto took over as interim GM and made the trade that sent three-time All-Star Dan Haren to the Angels for four players including starter Joe Saunders and solid prospects. He also swung a canny deal with the White Sox for Daniel Hudson, a 16-game winner this year.

When Kevin Towers took over the Diamondbacks this season, Dipoto stuck around, adding another perspective to a collection of knowledge he keeps in a 40-page book summing up his philosophies about baseball and life. He gave that “living document” to Moreno after his interview, but didn’t know what impression he had made until he got the job offer.

Dipoto thinks of himself as a balanced executive, equally comfortable with sabermetrics and old-school observation. That’s hardly unique, but Dipoto has the credentials to back it up after working with the innovative O’Dowd, Byrnes and Epstein while also scouting extensively in Japan, Latin America and the minors.

Dipoto plans to spend the next few days in a detailed evaluation of the organization with Scioscia, whose stamp is all over the Angels’ roster. Dipoto agrees with Scioscia’s frequently declarations that the relationship between pitchers and catchers is the sport’s most important aspect, saying “90 percent of the game is happening within that 60 feet, 6 inches.”

They’ll make a slightly odd couple: With his wiry runner’s physique, Dipoto appears ready to head back to the mound any time, while Scioscia is a noted fan of Italian food and gracious living. The Angels’ future could depend on where they find common ground.

“I’m a fairly energetic person, and I expect that from the people around me,” Dipoto said. “I can’t wait for the opportunity to learn everything I can from Mike to get us back right where we should be.”