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Former Ram Pitching His Way Back to the Bronx

Former Ram Pitching His Way Back to the Bronx

By Miles Doyle, FCRH ’01

Rob Semerano, FCRH '04
Photo courtesy of the Tampa Yankees
As the New York Yankees play out the final regular season games in the House that Ruth Built, 1,100 miles away, on Tampa’s sun-drenched Steinbrenner Field, Rob Semerano, FCRH ’04, a hard-throwing righthander from Port Jervis, N.Y., is doing his best to convince Yankees brass he’ll be ready to pitch meaningful innings for the big league team when the new Yankee Stadium opens its doors next season.

In 19 relief appearances this season for the Tampa Yankees, the organization’s Class A advanced affiliate, Semerano is 3-1, with 17 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings, according to the team’s website.

On July 26, a year removed from a debilitating injury to his subscapularis muscle, Semerano recorded his first win of the season, pitching two innings of relief against the first-place Dunedin Blue Jays. In his last 11 innings of relief, Semerano has allowed only three earned runs. He’s struck out five, while walking only one. 

“I’m learning the things they want me to learn and getting into games,” said Semerano. “It always feels good when you play a role in helping your team win.” 

As important as his recent play has been for the team’s place in the standings, however, Semerano’s recent stretch reveals more about his competitive spirit and determination than a box score ever could. 

The former Ram has come a long way in a short time.

Originally drafted out of Fordham by Billy Beane, the vice president and general manager of the Oakland Athletics and widely considered the best talent evaluator in all of professional baseball, Semerano bounced between the A’s Low-A and High-A teams for three years before injuring the muscle below his right shoulder while lifting weights.

After completing a lengthy rehabilitation in New York, Semerano was all set to get back on the mound. Beane, however, had other plans. After trading slugger Nick Johnson and starter Dan Haren for a number of minor-league pitchers, the A’s shut down Semerano for the remainder of the season before finally releasing him in early 2008.

Enter the Yankees.

Convinced Semerano’s shoulder was fully rehabilitated, team officials signed Semarano to a minor league contract in April. Semerano joined the team for extended spring training, which is reserved for players waiting for their Class A season to begin, or for players rehabilitating from injuries—players like Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who was working out his strained right shoulder at the Yankees’ minor league facilities in Tampa at the time. Posada caught Semerano in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league team. Semerano struck out the only batter he faced, on a 2-2 split-finger fastball.

“I went after him,” said Semerano, whose fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s. “Posada said he liked how my split moved. He told me, ‘nice job.’”

Posada isn’t the only one impressed. Under the watchful eye of pitching guru Billy Connors and a small cadre of other Yankees coaches, Semerano is throwing the ball as well as he ever has. Earlier this season, he pitched four scoreless innings with three strikeouts against Bakersfield, the Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, and held the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Single A affiliate hitless for 1 1/3 innings to earn his first save of the year.

With results like these, Semerano is looking forward to pitching again in the Bronx.

“My goal is to get to the big leagues with the Yankees,” he said. “I know I can help the organization at that level.”

—Miles Doyle, FCRH ’01, is the associate editor of FORDHAM magazine.

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