Nova’s turn to right the pitching ship

(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.

Categories : Pitching


  1. jjyank says:

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

  2. Eddard says:

    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.

  3. Jersey Joe says:

    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 says:

      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.

  4. Vern Sneaker says:

    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 says:

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

      • Vern Sneaker says:

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

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          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 says:

      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.

  5. TrollHunter says:

    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.

  6. Andrew J. says:

    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)

  7. trr says:

    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!

  8. Phil says:

    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.

  9. Stan the Man says:

    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.

  10. dkidd says:

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

  11. JonS says:

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

  12. LarryM Fl says:

    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.

  13. jim p says:

    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.

  14. The Real Greg says:

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

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