Picciolo's experience to serve Angels well
New bench coach for Scioscia a 'master' of fundamentals
When Ron Roenicke, the latest of manager Mike Scioscia's coaches to accept a Major League managerial position, headed to Milwaukee, the Angels didn't have to look far for a replacement as the boss' bench lieutenant.
"Your depth chart isn't just for players," Scioscia said.
In concert with general manager Tony Reagins, Scioscia concluded the ideal man for the job lived in-house, a fully qualified baseball lifer who could slide comfortably into Roenicke's shoes -- and even fit seamlessly into the 32-waist pants worn by the always-fit, slender "Rags."
Rob Picciolo, the Angels' roving infield instructor for five years, came back to the game's front lines when he became the third bench coach of the Scioscia era. Joe Maddon, who handled the role from 2000-05, left to take the Rays' reins as manager, turning it over to Roenicke.
"I'm thrilled with this opportunity," Picciolo said. "It was a little overwhelming when I found out. There are so many other great candidates in the organization. I was thrilled they were considering me. It's as exciting as it gets.
"The five years I've spent working with infielders here have probably been the most enjoyable of my coaching career. But it's exciting to get back in the big leagues again, with that challenge of trying to win a championship. All athletes love to compete, as I do. There's nothing like getting back on that field and trying to beat somebody."
Scioscia initiated contact with Picciolo, who was offered the position by Reagins during a meeting in the GM's office.
Known as "Peach," a derivative of his name and the definition of his personality, Picciolo, 57, is a lot more than one of the nicest guys on the planet. He knows the game inside-out, with 35 years of experience as player, coach and manager. He spent nine seasons as the San Diego bench coach before taking over as the third-base coach for the Padres, who cut ties with him after the 2005 season.
"Peach is a master of baseball fundamentals," Scioscia said. "He knows how to teach. To have a person like that, included with the guys we already have, will make it as strong a staff as we've had here.
"Some great baseball minds have moved on from our staff, and we've been fortunate to have guys come along who are just as passionate about the game and dedicated. Along with that passion, these guys will put everything on the table and do everything they can to help move us forward.
"Peach's experience and ability to understand the game will be important for us on the bench."
Along with serving as Scioscia's right-hand man, Picciolo will assume Roenicke's former role in directing and positioning the outfielders and handling daily Spring Training scheduling.
"I talked to Rags briefly," Picciolo said. "He was on a flight after taking the job with the Brewers. I congratulated him, and he said he heard I was going to take his position. He told me it was a great opportunity. He was excited for me, and I, of course, was excited for him."
Like Roenicke, Picciolo has roots planted deep in Southern California. At Westchester High School in West L.A. and then at Santa Monica College, Picciolo was a terrific basketball player, excelling at the defensive end, while honing his baseball skills.
He led Pepperdine University to a conference title, getting his bachelor's degree in journalism, before signing with the Athletics in 1975 and embarking on a professional career. A regular with the A's in 1977, he spent six seasons (three under Billy Martin) in Oakland, parts of two seasons with the Brewers and one year with the Angels before returning to Oakland to finish his playing days in 1985.
The following season, he was managing the Padres' Northwest League club in Spokane, where he was named Manager of the Year in 1987. He spent two seasons working with the Padres' Minor League infielders before joining the big league staff in 1990, remaining there through the 2005 season.
First-base coach Alfredo Griffin runs the Angels' infield, and Picciolo will be available to lend a hand there. All the infielders are well acquainted with him.
"He's one of the best guys around," third baseman Brandon Wood said. "Peach has taught me a lot."
While his background is in the infield -- he was primarily a shortstop during nine seasons in the Major Leagues -- Picciolo has experience with outfield play as well from his 20 years as a multi-purpose coach in San Diego.
"With the Padres," he said, "I positioned all the outfielders when Greg Riddoch was the manager. I'm familiar with spray charts, getting specific positioning with certain hitters, moving with counts -- all those things.
"There are a lot of similarities with infield and outfield play, and there are some infield ideas and techniques I'd like to carry to the outfield. It's going to be challenging."
In San Diego, Picciolo was able to lean on the great Tony Gwynn for outfield expertise. Now he has two other veterans with Gold Glove experience to draw from in Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu.
"I'm going to pick their brains, for sure," Picciolo said.
Picciolo's experience as the bench coach for Bruce Bochy and Jim Riggleman in San Diego clearly was a factor in the Angels' decision to offer the promotion.
"He's going to have significant input in how we go about our business," Reagins said. "He was a logical choice for us when Ron left."
Picciolo was at Bochy's side during the Padres' 1998 National League pennant-winning season, which ended in a World Series sweep by the Yankees. Watching Bochy and former San Diego coach Tim Flannery help drive the Giants to their recent triumph in the Fall Classic stirred a lot of memories.
"I was really happy for those guys," Picciolo said. "I know how hard they've worked and how much this means to them. I've been fortunate to work with some great people in this game -- and I couldn't be happier to be involved now with Mike and these guys. I really feel blessed."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.