In his first preseason game against the Pirates, Ivan Nova went 1 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs, walked two batters, all while burning through 37 pitches. For his first game, Joe Girardi and the Yankees will take the righty’s performance… for now.
The Yankees’ master plan to assemble a championship-caliber team relies on multiple areas, including the starting pitching. Nova was expected to return as a fourth starter after finishing last season strongly. After emerging as a hidden gem in 2011, Nova exploded in 2012, nearly to the point of baseball non-existence. After an injury, Nova stormed back in 2013, ending the year with a 3.10 ERA in twenty starts. Only 27, he still hasn’t entered his pitching prime yet; apparently, he has developed a stronger changeup in addition to his curveball and heater.
However, Nova’s pitching Wednesday was definitely in the wrong direction. There isn’t any need to panic, and his velocity was right where it should be, but he got was hit hard. Nova’s progress during Spring Training now poses another question on the Yankees’ brain trust. How can a rotation possibly succeed with an ailing ace (C.C. Sabathia), an aging veteran (Hiroki Kuroda), a stud(?) (Masahiro Tanaka), Nova’s consistent inconsistency, and a plethora of players vying for the fifth slot? Even though it may sound pessimistic, it is very unlikely that all of the pitchers have good years.
But back to Nova. Hopefully, he doesn’t continue a trend of great odd years, bad even years. Even though Opening Day isn’t until April 1st (no fooling), there is no denying that Nova is integral to the team’s success. Wednesday was rough, but there should be blue skies ahead for Ivan Nova. He just needs to focus on each batter and avoid the base on balls to replicate his second half performance.