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Scioscia downplays reported rift
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ANAHEIM (AP) — Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia downplayed a report of a renewed rift with general manager Jerry Dipoto on Tuesday, insisting the two are “a good team.”

Scioscia addressed the report by Fox Sports before the Angels faced the Yankees, largely insisting that vehement closed-doors discussions are being misconstrued as an unbridgeable disagreement between the longest-tenured manager in baseball and the Angels’ new-school top executive.

“I’m passionate, he’s passionate,” Scioscia said. “We know about baseball and about doing well, and that’s usually a good thing. ... I’m not going to comment on what happened or didn’t happen, but I can only tell you that it will not be a distraction to these guys.”

The Angels largely declined to comment directly about a team meeting last weekend that apparently highlighted the differences between Scioscia’s more traditional approach and Dipoto’s interest in statistical analysis. Albert Pujols flatly denied criticizing the Angels’ roster during the meeting.

When asked if the Angels have a rift between management and the on-field staff, Pujols replied: “I don’t need to talk about that. That’s between the players, the coaches and the front office. So we don’t need to talk about that.”

AL MVP Mike Trout also declined comment on the meeting. Pujols was angry to learn that details of the meeting had been leaked, calling it “pretty embarrassing, you know, because we’re supposed to be family here.”

Pujols contradicted Fox Sports’ claim that the slugger told Dipoto that the Angels’ roster wasn’t as strong as last season’s group. The Angels led the majors in scoring in 2014, but began Tuesday 11th in the 15-team AL with 300 runs in 77 games.

“I’ve been in this game for 16 years, (and) I would never disrespect the team,” said Pujols, who leads the AL with 23 homers in the fourth season of his 10-year, $240 million contract.

Scioscia acknowledged the Angels have changed the way they distribute information from scouts, with the statistical reports now going straight to the players instead of through the coaching staff. Yet Scioscia, the Angels’ manager since 2000, insists he values advanced analytics. He disagreed with the notion he is at odds with Dipoto because he relies more on baseball instinct.

“We get the players prepared, and it’s been working, especially our game plan on the pitching side,” Scioscia said. “Whether you’re a team president or a GM or a manager or a coach, there’s always heavy discussion. But it’s good, because you’re trying to get to the best decision.”

Scioscia is under contract through 2018, but could walk away from the remaining $18 million on his contract after the season.

He is an icon of Southern California baseball, following up his 13-year playing career as a Dodgers catcher by leading the Angels to six division titles and their only World Series championship back in 2002.

Dipoto was hired after the 2011 season, and he butted heads with Scioscia in 2012 when the Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher against Scioscia’s wishes. Owner Arte Moreno declined to choose between the two, forcing them to work out their differences.

Dipoto and Scioscia appeared to have mended their relationship last year when they won 98 games and the AL West title.

“Our relationship has developed into a good working relationship, and it’s grown from where it was four years ago to where it is now,” Scioscia said. “We make decisions, give input, and that’s it.