It's up to Dipoto to fix the pitching

Ervin Santana had another rough outing for the Angels, who may be forced to address the situation. AP Photo/Reed Saxon

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- General manager Jerry Dipoto came to Anaheim under practically ideal conditions. He was following an ineffective predecessor, coming to work for an owner who spends freely and joining a franchise under a respected manager with a winning culture.

Eight months later, it's getting a little warmer in his suite.

After another dreadful outing by pitcher Ervin Santana in Saturday's 9-2 loss to the Texas Rangers, Dipoto's mandate couldn't be more clear heading into the July 31 trade deadline: Land a starting pitcher.

Forget about the bullpen, Jerry. Focus on starters. Santana might even prove to be the solution to some softness in the middle relief. Remember 2005, when he pitched great in relief in the playoffs? Kevin Jepsen has shown enough signs of figuring things out that adding a reliever hardly seems like a red-light priority these days. The rotation, on the other hand, when Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson is not pitching, threatens to pull this team down.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia hemmed and hawed when asked after Saturday's game whether Santana -- 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA -- will have his rotation spot skipped or be shuffled off to the bullpen.

"There's no decision yet. We're going to do what's best for our team, and, like I said, I think the optimum for our team is to have a guy like Ervin pitching to his capabilities," Scioscia said. "You can't discount the fact that he just did it. ... We're not going back five years; we're going back five days in Detroit."

One way of paraphrasing Scioscia's point: Name a better option.

Jerome Williams had a nice run, but since coming off the disabled list, he has given up 10 runs and four home runs in two starts. Rookie Garrett Richards is already in the rotation, and he hardly has been automatic lately. Brad Mills had a nice five-inning start not long ago, but -- with his 85 mph fastball -- doesn't seem like a long-term fix.

The Angels have pretty much maxed out their pitching depth, amazingly, which is why the imperative for Dipoto to act is so clear. There's too much potential on this team, with Mike Trout setting records, Albert Pujols coming on and Mark Trumbo knocking down fences, for him not to.

According to an industry source, Dipoto has been working hard to acquire an arm, but he has been limited by tepid interest from his owner to exceed the team's opening day payroll of $151 million and by a lack of trade chips at the higher levels of the organization. Beyond pitcher John Hellweg and shortstop Jean Segura, the Angels don't have many young players rebuilding teams want.

As recently as Friday, Dipoto was downplaying expectations for a big splash at the deadline. Maybe that's posturing. Maybe it's a genuine reflection of the state of the market. Angels fans had better hope it's not the final word.

"There's no clearly defined trade market; there really isn't," Dipoto said. "There are 30 teams essentially trying to determine if they're in or out, and all you've got to do is look at USA Today to realize there are a whole lot of teams who could certainly justify going for it."

If Dipoto can't make a move, the Angels are left hoping Santana can finally figure it out. He doesn't sound close. Asked what has been the problem, Santana turned to a reporter and said, "If you told me, I'd probably make the adjustment."

Soon, it might be time for somebody else to make it for him.