The New York Yankees have been waiting for injuries to heal and for some consistency as they hover near .500 yet lead the AL East. A big injury came back this week when Masahiro Tanaka returned to makes the Mariners look silly. He had nine strikeouts in seven innings and only gave up three hits. Next to return may be Ivan Nova who will be starting for the Tampa Yankees on June 8th. If there are no setbacks after that start, he will go right to Scranton.
Ivan Nova hasn’t pitched since April 2014 when he went down with an injury that eventually led to him needing Tommy John surgery. Once healthy, he will immediately be entered into the rotation to help the Yankees stay afloat arguably the weakest division in baseball.
Nova’s 2014 season can’t be used as a measuring stick for where he is as a pitcher. He started four games and had an 8.27 ERA. In 2013, he started 23 games and went 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA. His ERA+ was 129, showing his above average performance. He had a high WHIP of 1.29 but he only gave up 9 home runs and got outs when he needed them.
Nova is 28 years old and is making $3.3 million this season. He has one more year of being arbitration eligible before hitting free agency in 2017. With so many expensive players on the team, a healthy Nova is really a huge value not only on the field, but to the front office. If he can stay in the rotation the rest of the season, he will allow Brian Cashman to have a more open mind about whether to move anyone else on the squad that may be underperforming.
The Yankees currently have a half game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays in the East, both riding a three game winning streak. The rest of the division is at least 5 games under .500. While it may be frustrating to see the Yankees not take advantage of the weak division, the pace the five teams are setting is allowing them to be slower with injury recoveries and with calling up young talent. Much like a horse race, all the teams in the East are waiting for someone to take over and set a new pace.
With rehab games starting this week, Nova should be with the Yankees before July. If he and Tanaka stay off the DL, the Yankees have a real chance to squeak out another division title in 2015.