Nova’s turn to right the pitching ship

Jeter scales back rehab work in Tampa
2013 Draft: Kyle Devin
(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

We all knew the Yankees were going to rely on their pitching staff this year, especially early in the season. That’s why it was bummer to watch the starters allow a combined 15 runs in 23 innings during the first five games of the year (5.87 R/9). They’ve rebounded to allow just 11 runs in 39.1 innings in the last six games (2.52 R/9), but none of those last six starts were made by Ivan Nova.

Nova, 26, nibbled his way to four runs in 4.2 innings against the Tigers last week, putting himself in hitter’s counts and long at-bats all afternoon. The Yankees used last week’s rainouts to skip his turn, a move that wasn’t unjustified given not only his first start of the season, but also his second half a year ago. Nova was pretty dreadful down the stretch, remember. He will get the ball tonight in the series opener against the Diamondbacks on nine days rest.

“I always worry about starters the first time through to begin a season,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand following Nova’s first start. “I think they can get a little excited, they can get a little hyped up. Position players go through it for one day; for a pitcher, if you’re the second starter, it builds up a couple days. Third starter, it’s more, fourth starter it’s even more. I don’t judge them too quickly on their first starts, because that’s a concern. For him, it’s consistency down in the zone.”

Regardless of whether it’s consistency down in the zone or strike-throwing in general or something else entirely, Nova might be starting to run out of rope. He allowed 55 runs in his final 72 innings last summer (6.88 R/9) and by the time late September rolled around, Girardi went from not giving him a chance to work out jams (2.1 and 4.2 innings in his final two starts) to not giving him the ball entirely, skipping Ivan in favor of David Phelps in Game 161 with the division title on the line. Add it all together and it doesn’t seem like the team has a ton of faith in him at the moment.

“I have to look at it like a regular start … If I start doing anything differently, I’ll be in trouble,” said Nova to Dan Martin. “It’s tough when you’re not pitching good and you don’t get a chance to go out there for a lot of days. It’s a little bit frustrating … But I have to fight. I don’t think they’re worried about me and I don’t think they should be worried about me.”

Nova threw an extended bullpen session on Friday in an effort to stay sharp, but his issues extend beyond just staying sharp. His stuff is plenty good, but adjustments have to be made and his command needs to be refined. Perhaps working backwards and using the breaking ball earlier in counts would help, who knows? Given how CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have rebounded while Phil Hughes struggles and Andy Pettitte is sidelined with old man back, Nova is suddenly an important part of the rotation. Getting things straight and soon, as in tonight, is very important for the Yankees going forward.

Jeter scales back rehab work in Tampa
2013 Draft: Kyle Devin
  • jjyank

    Come on, Nova. I enjoyed calling you SuperNova once upon a time. Can we do that again? Pretty please?

    • Kramerica Industries


      • TomH

        More like the Avon lady if he keeps pitching like last time.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          That wasn’t an airplane you just heard. That was the mention of “The Avon Lady” going above a whole lot of heads. :)

          • trr

            C’mon, I told all my Met-luvin’ buddies how clever everyone is here

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Clever? Yes.

              I have vague recollections of Avon ladies in the late 70’s, along with mail-order Englebert Humperdinck albums for my mother. I might as well be typing random leaders on a keyboard by saying some of that, though.

              • MannyGeee

                Pink Cadillacs mutherfucker.

              • vicki

                my grandmother used to say ‘englebert could park his shoes under my bed any time.’

                “after the lovin'” is an awesome fucking song.

          • TomH

            I can’t resist allusions after reading that poster, on Sunday, who didn’t catch “Boog Powell” because his head was filled with Roman and … Byzantine(!) military history. I thought it was a great put-down.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I used to quote Liz Phair lyrics on game threads.

      We can still call him SuperNova. Maybe it’ll rub off like Phil Phucking Halladay and Coal Hammels did.

    • MickeyP

      Ivan the unbeatable.

  • Eddard

    I’m not worried about Nova. He’s had 1 start. Not 10, 1. And it was against a good Tigers lineup. Tonight, he is facing an NL team in an AL park against a team that hasn’t hit against him. I think he’ll show us something tonight and begin his turnaround into a solid groundball pitcher.

    • LK

      He has had one start this year, but it’s also true that his past 10+ starts have been just dreadful.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Or the fact that we’ve seen stretches like this every season from him, interspersed with very good pitching. No matter how good the good starts now, that type of inconsistency isn’t going to keep him in any good team’s rotation.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          “No matter how good the good starts are”

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Of course you’re not.

      • WhittakerWalt

        I think Eddard believes Nuney will teach Nova how to right the ship.

  • Jersey Joe

    Not worried about Nova right now, but next year he will be super important. I think he needs to right his ship first, then next year he will have to be back to 2011 form or better.

    • vicki

      2011 nova was a very effective pitcher who got 5.3 k/9. it was supposed to be a good thing when he returned from his scranton stint with an improved slider but instead he somehow lost his identity.

  • Vern Sneaker

    How long does it take to evaluate a pitcher? He’s had 63 big-league starts with very average stats (his won-loss is very deceptive, as all Yankees fans know) and lots of inconsistency. Yes he’s only 26, but I think it’s reasonable to project he won’t be more than a #4 or #5-type starter ever. That’s what we’ve got. As soon as we can be sure we’ve got an upgrade (Phelps and Warren are still maybes, in my opinion), he’s got to go. A little more rope, that’s it.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Well, you usually have until the price tag from arbitration and raises no longer match the production.

      • Vern Sneaker

        Right. He’s arb-eligible next year, so it’s now or never, IMO. I wish I felt more hopeful about him.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Yeah, I’m mostly indifferent at this point. I used to really root for him, and felt very positive he could figure it out. Nothing seems to stick with him, though.

          Indeed, time’s running out on a few guys.

    • Rick

      It seems that Mr. Axisa’s assessment of him is coming true. Mike was never high on him and he looks very smart right now. Though we can all still hope the big guy is/was wrong.

      • John C

        and then if he gets traded and flourishes elsewhere the same hypocrites will be killi Cashman for giving up on him too soon, like Ian Kennedy

        • Robinson Tilapia

          …and they’ll ignore whatever the Yanks got in return.

  • TrollHunter

    When Nova first came up he challenged hitters and had an attitude like he knew no one could hit him. That first start in Toronto where he challenged (was it Bautista) by brushing him off the plate then starring him down was awesome and made me think he might really be something special. Sadly now that confidence is gone, he is afraid to throw the ball over the plate and just stands on the mound with slumped shoulders and a defeated look on his face.

    • vicki

      oh yes, it was bautista. joey took umbrage and walked toward the mound with his bat in his hand. kid stood his ground. that moment filled up nova’s account with me, but his credit has dwindled.

    • JonS

      Cervelli was catching. He’s always around lol

      • vicki

        joe girardi, regulator. love it.

        • Havok9120

          Him and his longshoreman arms.

          • vicki

            my manager can beat up your manager.

  • Andrew J.

    When’s the last time you saw a pitching matchup like tonight’s?

    RHP Ivan Nova (0-1, 7.71)
    RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-1, 7.71)

    • trr

      I noticed that! We’ll call it an even match-up…

    • dkidd

      whoops, posted the same thing below. keep forgetting to read through threads before posting

  • trr

    There ‘s a group of visitors at my company going to the game tonight.
    (not with me, unfortunately)
    Let’s show ’em how this game is played!

  • Phil

    Right now I will take a .500 Nova maybe 12-12 or so. We are going to need another starter or maybe two because Nova and Hughes haven’t looked good in a while. Both pitchers have regressed. Maybe Wang comes back as the 4th starter or (gulp) Adam Warren has been better than these two.

    • Michael Pineda

      *taps on Phil’s shoulder*

      • David Phelps

        No love for me as a starter?

        • vicki

          you’re too valuable in your current role.

  • Stan the Man

    I agree that this is an important start for Nova, just like it will be an important start of Hughes on his next go, but at the end of the day we are talking about #4 and #5 starters. The Yanks can find answers to that problem more easily than they can to the front part of the rotation. If the Yanks are still searching for answers to the back end of their rotation come June/July then it is reasonable for them to make a switch whether it is another young guy getting a shot or trading for someone who isn’t carrying a long term price tag on them.

  • dkidd

    oddly, both nova and mccarthy are 0-1 with a 7.71 era

  • JonS

    Nova is such an enigma, Tonight, he’ll either go 7IP 1ER 5K 2BB or 2.2IP 5ER 4K 1BB.

    • LarryM Fl

      Do not put any money on your assumption.

  • LarryM Fl

    I have no issue with Nova or any young pitcher who does have talent to struggle. To go from one start to another and display some semblance of learning from the games prior. But Nova has shown that is not the case. His location has been off since last season. His fastball was pounded because of his location.

    I believe the Yanks are very worried about Nova because of his apparent inability to learn from prior experiences. My frustration with Nova is his lack of urgency to his situation especially to modify/changing his delivery to correct the problem.

  • jim p

    Mr Axisa is only been good to me, but I do think he has the idea that after age 22 or so, it’s impossible for a ballplayer to learn anything new. Not that Nova will ever be near a Koufax or Gibson, but some people just mature later, or have the light go on as they get nearer 30.

  • The Real Greg

    I think with Vidal Nuno pitching well at AAA, Nova has to be on notice.