Yankees move Ivan Nova to the bullpen


The Yankees have removed Ivan Nova from the rotation, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. Nova will be used out of the bullpen going forward. He is not available tonight but will be starting Friday. Girardi said the decision was purely performance related.

Nova, 28, has a 5.11 ERA (4.92 FIP) in 14 starts and 75.2 innings this season following his return from Tommy John surgery. He’s been especially bad of late, allowing 29 runs and 59 base-runners in his last seven starts and 35 innings. Nova’s been getting worse as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction, not better.

This isn’t the first time the Yankees have yanked Nova from the rotation due to ineffectiveness. They did it in 2013 as well, when he had a 6.48 ERA after four starts. Nova made three relief appearances before rejoining the rotation that year, and, to his credit, he dominated down the stretch. Maybe the demotion was a wake-up call.

I’m curious to see how Girardi will use Nova going forward. Will he step into the old Adam Warren role as sort of a multi-inning guy who can pitch the middle innings or late in the game if necessary? Or will Nova be held back as a pure long man? There’s not much time left in the season. If he’s going to carve out a niche, he needs to do it soon.

Taking stock of Ivan Nova’s post-surgery performance

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

It’s often said pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery are vulnerable to erratic performances as they regain arm strength and command of their pitches. When you combine that thinking with the notion that Ivan Nova’s career has largely been defined by periods of brilliance mixed in with extended stretches of mediocrity, it was probably inevitable that Nova was not going to be a model of reliability when he rejoined the pitching staff in late June.

Nova flashed signs of being that near-dominant pitcher in his season debut when he fired 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies, but two starts later was perhaps at his worst this season when he gave up four runs and had just one strikeout versus the Rays. And most recently against the Indians last week he put together another uninspiring start, allowing three runs before being pulled after five innings of work.

To his credit, Nova acknowledged that he’s had his ups and downs this season. “You’re going to have days like this,” Nova told the Associated Press after his dud on August 20. “Not going to feel perfect every time you go out there.”

Despite battling through bouts of inconsistency and posting a 3.72 ERA that is just barely above league-average (and a below-average 4.12 FIP), there are still a bunch of encouraging signs from Nova’s first 10 starts. Digging deeper into his numbers, there is a hint of optimism that he can be a viable starter for the Yankees as they battle for a playoff spot and the division crown in the final six weeks.


The first thing you typically look for in a pitcher trying to come back from Tommy John surgery is changes in velocity and throwing mechanics. Nova passes that test with flying colors, as his velocity is on par with previous seasons and the release points on his pitches are unchanged. He’s averaging 93.3 mph on his four-seamer and sinker, nearly the same as his rookie season (93.4) in 2011 and his last healthy season (93.9) in 2013.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (3)

His signature curveball has also been really sharp, with a top-20 whiff rate (37 percent) and top-10 marks in both batting average against (.143) and slugging (.196). Maikel Franco is one of the top rookies in the NL this season, but he had no chance on this two-strike hook from Nova back on June 24:


Pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery often struggle with their control but that hasn’t been the case with Nova. His walk rate of 7.5 percent this season is identical to what he did from 2011-13 (7.7 percent), and although he’s throwing pitches out of the strike zone at a career-high rate of 58 percent, he’s also locating pitches in the heart of the zone at the lowest rate of his career (18 percent). It seems like he is still trying to get comfortable pitching on the edges of the zone, but he’s done a good job of avoiding mistakes and grooved pitches right down the middle.

Another good omen for Nova is that he’s back to being a ground ball machine, with a ground ball rate of 52.5 percent that almost matches his 2013 mark. His hard-contact and soft-contact rates are also his best since 2011, and he’s generating popups at a rate that is nearly double his previous career best.

nova contact

Despite those positive trends, one concern is that Nova’s strikeout rate is below his peak 2012-13 levels, and he seemingly hasn’t yet regained the feel for his four-seam fastball this season. Opponents are hitting .309 and slugging .546 in at-bats ending in his heater, and have whiffed on just seven percent of their swings against it.

Perhaps realizing its ineffectiveness, Nova has ditched his four-seam fastball recently in favor of the much more effective sinker that ranks fifth among starting pitchers in ground ball rate (68 percent).

Brooksbaseball-Chart (2)

The fact Nova has been able to make these adjustments mid-season is an excellent indicator that he’s evolving as a pitcher and getting closer to reaching his potential.

Another sign of his maturity is the way that he’s been able to get out of jams and pitch under pressure this season. Batters have a .151/.230/.236 line against him with runners in scoring position and he’s stranded nearly three-quarters of his baserunners so far.

Although Nova is far from a finished product and is still clearly trying to find his pitching rhythm post-surgery, he’s shown a lot of promise in his first 10 starts this season. He’s keeping the ball on the ground with his sinker, mixing in a nasty curveball when ahead in the count, and pitching with confidence and poise from the stretch.

There’s still one hurdle, however, that Nova has yet to overcome: the inconsistency that has defined not just this season, but his entire career. Sure, he can’t shed that label in single game. But a strong performance tonight against the Astros would not only be an encouraging sign of progress in Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery, but also a key step forward in his long-term development from a talented yet unpredictable pitcher into a reliable top-of-the-rotation starter.

Game 115: The Day After


My heart is still pumping after that game last night. That was something else. Been a while since a baseball game made me feel that way. But today is a new day, and what happened yesterday is in past. The Yankees have another game this afternoon and a chance to win the series over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. I’d like that, especially after last weekend.

The Yankees have the right guy on the mound this afternoon in Masahiro Tanaka, who has been really homer prone of late, but also pretty good. Last weekend he held the Jays to three hits — two solo homers — in six innings and could have gone out for the seventh because he’d only thrown 80 pitches. Hopefully Tanaka goes deeper into the game today and keeps the ball in the park. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. SS Didi Gregorus
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy, cool, and humid in Toronto this afternoon, and there is some rain in the forecast, so I’m guessing the Rogers Centre roof will be closed. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:07pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees have recalled Caleb Cotham and designated Chris Capuano for assignment, the team announced. I guess that means Bryan Mitchell is available for long relief work again.

Injury Update: Forgot to mention this in the recap last night, but x-rays on Ivan Nova‘s finger came back negative following last night’s game. He took that hard-hit grounder to the hand in the third inning. It got him in the ring finger. Nova stayed in the game and didn’t seem to have any problems afterward … Diego Moreno will have bone chips removed from his elbow, Brian Cashman announced. Moreno had been pitching when them for years, but they didn’t become a problem until recently.

Game 101: So Long, Texas

"Yo, I heard they picked up this Ackley guy who used to be a second baseman." (Presswire)
“Yo, I heard they picked up this Ackley guy who used to be a second baseman.” (Presswire)

Some series go by quickly, some go by slowly, and for some reason this four-game set with the Rangers feels like it has been going on for two weeks. Maybe it’s just me. That crazy game two nights ago, the 21-5 game, took forever. Maybe that’s what it is. I feel like the Yankees are been in Texas for a month.

Anyway, the Yankees and Rangers finally wrap up this four-game series tonight and the Yankees have a streak on the line. They’ve won each of their last six series — the last series loss was in Anaheim last month — and tonight they have a chance to stretch it to seven. Winning a four-game series is tough, but they can do it tonight. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    LHP CC Sabathia

Last day in the heat. Temperatures have again been over 100 degrees all day in Arlington and they’ll be in the 90s when the game begins. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Michael Pineda was placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade I flexor muscle strain in his forearm. It’s the same thing Andrew Miller had earlier this year. Pineda told reporters the MRI showed only inflammation and he’s not worried. He will be shut down 7-10 days before he can resume throwing … Ivan Nova (arm fatigue) threw a bullpen session today and is on track to make his next start.

Roster Moves: Pineda was placed on the DL and Caleb Cotham was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. Nick Goody and Bryan Mitchell were both called up in corresponding moves. Pineda’s DL stint allows them to bring Goody back before his ten-day window expires … Also, in case you missed it, the Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley in a three-player trade today. He won’t be in uniform tonight though. Joe Girardi said he’ll be a utility guy, not the starting second baseman.

Rotation Update: Nathan Eovaldi will start tomorrow and Nova will start Sunday, but Saturday’s starter is TBA, the Yankees say. I have to think Mitchell is an option. Esmil Rogers is scheduled to start that day for Triple-A Scranton, if you’re curious.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Wednesday

Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Just three days left now. The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday at 4pm ET, and while the Yankees have not yet made any moves, I’m sure they will at some point in the next few days. Pitching is a bit of an issue — I’d rather not see Chris Capuano make another spot start — and second base could use an upgrade as well. Maybe another righty bat too.

On Monday and Tuesday we learned the Yankees are engaged in the pitching market, both starters and relievers. They had conversations with the Reds about Johnny Cueto before he was traded to the Royals, and they were also in the hunt for Ben Zobrist before he joined Cueto in Kansas City. Final offers for Cole Hamels are reportedly due today as well. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here.

  • 7:04pm ET: The Mat Latos trade from earlier is currently on hold because of someone’s medicals. Not necessarily Latos’. So he could, in fact, still be an option for the Yankees. [Wittenmyer]
  • 4:33pm ET: The Yankees will indeed talk to the Tigers about David Price. They remain unwilling to part with top prospects — the Phillies against asked about Aaron Judge and Luis Severino — but I’m sure at least part of that is just posturing. [Heyman]
  • 4:31pm ET: The Phillies had a scout watching Ivan Nova on Monday. The Yankees did discuss Cueto with the Reds during Johnny Cueto talks, so it stands to reason he would be available for Cole Hamels as well. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 3:32pm ET: The Tigers called teams today to tell them they are “rebooting” and willing to listen on David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and others. I certainly expect the Yankees to make a run at Price. [Stark]
  • 2:56pm ET: If the Phillies do indeed trade Cole Hamels, it is unlikely to happen today. Any trade would have to wait until Thursday or even Friday as the Phillies mull over offers. [Jayson Stark]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Padres requested shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in trade talks about Craig Kimbrel, but the Yankees said no. New York is willing to eat the entire $28M left on Kimbrel’s contract, but they won’t surrender top prospects. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:24pm ET: Mat Latos is apparently off the board. The Marlins are reportedly trading the right-hander (and others) to the Dodgers for prospects. Earlier this week we heard the Yankees had some interest in Latos. [Gordon Wittenmyer]
  • 9:30am ET: The White Sox still have not given any indication they will trade Jeff Samardzija. They Yankees have had their eye on him for a few weeks now. The ChiSox are now only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot, so they might hold on to Samardzija and go for it, knowing they’ll get at least a draft pick for him after the season. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • The Reds are fielding offers for Aroldis Chapman but are not devoted to trading him because he’s under team control next season. They moved Cueto because they were going to lose him to free agency. The Yankees are said to be open to adding another high-end reliever. [Buster Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Game 99: Bullpen Game

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

In the interest of self-preservation, the Yankees are pushing everyone in their rotation back a day and using a spot sixth starter tonight. Except there’s no spot starter. It’s going to be a bullpen game — Chris Capuano and Adam Warren are expected to throw roughly 50 pitches each, then the rest of the relievers will take over from there. It’s not ideal, but there aren’t any other options right now.

On the bright side, the Yankees have won eight of ten games since the All-Star break and have a nice little seven-game lead in the AL East. The division looked wide-open coming into the season and we all kinda waiting for some team to got hot and run away with things, and would you believe it, that team ended up being the Yankees. Still a lot of season left though. Seven games is a nice lead but a guarantee of nothing. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Chris Young
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    LHP Chris Capuano

It was another disgustingly hot day in Arlington — not that the weather in New York has been any better — and the temperatures will again be in the 90s for tonight’s game. Gross. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05pm ET and for some reason the game will air on FOX Sports 1. Not YES, not WPIX, FOX Sports 1 only. Weird. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Diego Moreno was called up from Triple-A Scranton and Nick Goody was optioned down, the Yankees announced. Moreno had been working as a starter for the RailRiders — though he’s not yet stretched out beyond 55 pitches or so — and is better able to give length tonight if necessary.

Injury Update: Ivan Nova said he expects to throw his regular bullpen session and make his next start after leaving last night’s game with “arm fatigue.” Apparently he’s been told it’s common for a dead arm phase to follow Tommy John surgery.

Game 80: Tanaka Time vs. Tampa

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

This weekend’s series with the Rays is pretty important. I mean, all games against AL East rivals will be important going forward because the division is so tight. Every single game matters. Each win in July is one less you need in September.

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound tonight following two really shaky starts that featured six total home runs allowed. Three in each start. The Yankees might be tied for first today, but it’s hard to see them staying atop the division if Tanaka doesn’t straight himself out. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Absolutely flawless weather in New York today. Beautiful blue skies, just enough clouds, temperatures in the high-70s/low-80s, and a nice cool breeze. Just perfect. This is what I want the weather to be for the rest of my life. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Rotation Update: Ivan Nova will start Sunday on normal rest, Joe Girardi told reporters. CC Sabathia is being pushed back to Wednesday to give him extra rest, and also extra time to work on things in the bullpen. Also, pushing him back means Sabathia will a) make just one start before the All-Star break instead of two, and b) not face the division rival Rays and Red Sox these next ten days.

Injury Update: Looking for a timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s return? Well we’re not getting one. Girardi basically said he’ll be back when he’s back. Ellsbury (knee) has played two minor league rehab games this week but has had to sit out two others with fatigue. He is not playing for High-A Tampa tonight.

Roster Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran was placed on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Taylor Dugas was sent down as well and both Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were called up.