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Friday, December 27, 2013

Pitcher Rob Smorol Bringing Rutgers Tradition to the Boston Red Sox

The New England Patriots of the NFL have developed a recent reputation for their love of players from Rutgers University. It turns out their proclivity may have wafted over to their MLB counterparts, as the Boston Red Sox have acquired their own Scarlet Knight. He is left-handed pitcher Rob Smorol, and he is trying to make a name for himself in the organization’s vaunted farm system.

Smorol attended Arthur L. Johnson High School in New Jersey before moving on to Rutgers. He began as a reliever but became a dependable starter by his sophomore season. He won 22 games during his career and left as one of the best hurlers in school history.

He started his Red Sox career with the organization’s Gulf Coast League team, which according to a Rutgers press release, was managed by former Rutgers player and coach, Darren Fenster. In 13 games with them, and another with Single-A Greenville (all in relief), the southpaw combined to go 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA while striking out 14 batters in 17.2 innings.

Although he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, Smorol knows how to pitch. If he continues to produce results, his lack of a draft pedigree won’t matter. Boston is all about player development, and the young lefty is in a position to prove he can make his way to the majors.

Give Smorol a follow on Twitter and see what he had to say when we recently exchanged emails and I asked him about his career.

Rob Smorol Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. Everything he did on a baseball field was so smooth and effortless. I really liked guys with some flash and looked great in their uniform, and Griffey was the epitome of both of these. I started wearing my hat backwards and wristbands just like him, and tried to model my game after him as well. 

How did you end up choosing to attend Rutgers?: I really wanted to attend and play at a Division-1 school that was not only prestigious academically, but also near my home. Rutgers was the perfect choice for me in that it is less than half hour from where I live, and really well known for its academics. My goal was always to play in a high-end conference, and Rutgers offered that in being in the Big East.

How did you first find out that the Red Sox were interested in you?: I did not know the Red Sox were interested in me until the day I was called to be signed. Ray Fagnant, the northeast scouting coordinator, called me and simply asked how I would like to be a Red Sox. He went on to say that Darren Fenster (rookie ball coach and an assistant at Rutgers for 2 years while I was there) had nothing but great things to say about me as a player, and that he though highly of me as well. There were a few teams that I really thought were going to sign me, never thinking it would be the Red Sox. 

How disappointed were you that you weren't drafted?: The draft was extremely disappointing for me. A couple teams had told me that I was a mid-to-later round draft pick on their draft boards, with many others showing interest. I was not only let down the last day of the draft, but completely shocked. I thought it really could have been the end of my baseball career. Fortunately, I was the lucky one in signing shortly thereafter, as a couple of my teammates at Rutgers that also received a lot of interest and were not drafted and never got picked up. 

What current pitcher would you say your style/type of skills is most similar to?: Mechanically, I really try to model myself after CJ Wilson and Scott Kazmir. I believe I throw pretty similar to both those guys, with our sizes being pretty similar as well. In terms of pitches thrown, I believe I'm more similar to Wilson, although he throws harder than I do.

What is one part of your game that you hope to improve on the most?: This offseason I'm really focusing on gaining some velocity. Most guys at the A-ball level throw harder than me, and I really think this is something I need to gain to move up in the organization. Overall you’re able get away with a lot more mistakes if you’re consistently in that 90s range.

What is life like in the Gulf Coast League?: Life in the Gulf Coast League is a lot different than the other affiliates. Usually everything is done in the morning, from conditioning to PFP (pitchers' fielding practice), to batting practice. Report time is 7:30 and the games are mostly played during the day, so you’re leaving the complex sometime around 4. Your day is mapped out for you and everyone is on an extremely strict schedule.

When I moved up to Greenville (A-ball) things were a lot different. Report times were much later and the games were played at night. Everything was a little more loose up there as well.

What do you believe you need to do to help yourself stand out from the guys who may be high draft picks or received big international bonuses?: I believe if you pitch well you’re going to stand out. Everyone gets a shot at this level, no matter where you were picked or how much you signed for. So in order for me to stand out and move up in the organization I have to really pitch well and do whatever is asked of me, no matter how big or small the role. The rest takes care of itself.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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