New York Yankees News: Ivan Nova Set to Boost Yankees Rotation Mid-Season


The New York Yankees may possess out a precarious starting rotation come Opening Day, but the return of Ivan Nova from a year off following Tommy John surgery could be a huge boost to the team.

Nova has played many roles in his young career. From up-and-coming prospect, to Rule 5 draft pick, to Major League swingman, to solid (if inconsistent) starter, to a ground ball-generating stud, Nova was set to help anchor the 2014 Yankees rotation before blowing out his elbow last April.

In case you’re wondering what a healthy Nova means to this team, in his last full season (2013), Nova pitched to a 3.20 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR – .2 WAR more than Tanaka last year in his rookie season, in roughly the same number of innings.

According to the Associated Press, Nova is already throwing on flat ground down in Tampa, Nova says his elbow feels good, and expects to return in June. April 19th will mark a full year since his Tommy John surgery, and while most pitchers attempt to return in 12 months or less, the Yankees are taking a cautious approach to Nova because of his importance to the team both this year and in the future.

Still only 28 years old, Nova can be a difference maker for the Yankees, with his heavy, hard sinker and nasty breaking ball. With the newly improved infield defense, Nova can take a step forward this June upon his return, as he will have the rangy Didi Gregorius behind him, rather than the diminished Derek Jeter. Chase Headley is an upgrade at third base over Alex Rodriguez, and Stephen Drew should be more than adequate at second base for the time being, with Mark Teixeira still a magician at first base.

If he can return fully healthy, Nova can be a solid #2 starter for the team, and his presence will have a beneficial domino effect on the rest of the rotation. If he is close to 100% of his former self, as is increasingly the case with pitchers returning from Tommy John, Joe Girardi can remove the weakest link from the starting rotation. This would likely push Chris Capuano to the bullpen.

Nova’s return could also take pressure off former ace CC Sabathia, newcomer Nathan Eovaldi, the emerging Michael Pineda, and ace apparent Masahiro Tanaka, who each come with risks of their own. If one of them goes down early in the season, the Yankees can still hope for a healthy Nova to return and bolster the rotation, rather than turning to an unproven young minor leaguer, or free-agent detritus.

With what should be a top-5 infield defense in the American League, Nova’s stuff plays well on the 2015 Yankees, who are in need of stability in their rotation. He has the potential to pitch to a 3.00 ERA if the Yankees are careful to stretch him out gradually, which would go a long way in helping the Yankees return to the playoffs once more.

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