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First Pitch: Nova ready for fresh start

Ivan Nova's going to make his 26th start of the season on Saturday, but he's approaching it like it's his first.

Nova will return to the mound after missing the past three weeks with a shoulder injury. And he's looking for a new beginning to his 2012 season.

"For me, it's going to be like a new start," the 25-year-old said.

Nova was 9-2 on June 17, but had a bad run in which he went 1-3 with an 8.59 ERA. He'll take the mound on Saturday afternoon with a 11-7 record and 4.92 ERA. And with the Yanks in an extremely tight pennant race.

"I'm looking forward to (it)," Nova said. "I just want to go out and compete and do my best for my team ... we need a couple wins."

Nova could also be pitching for a spot in the postseason rotation, if the Yanks get that far.

Right now, it seems as if CC Sabathia would start Game 1 and Hiroki Kuroda would go Game 2. If all goes well for Andy Pettitte in his attempt to come back from a broken ankle (and that's a big if at this point), then you'd have to figure Pettitte lines up as the No. 3 starter.

That means it would be between Phil Hughes and Nova for the No. 4 spot. (I don't think the Yanks will use three starters in the first round, because Sabathia hasn't been his dominant self.)

Hughes has been stingy lately, most recently shutting out Boston in the Yanks' 2-0 win in Fenway on Thursday.

Which brings us to our question: If Nova bounces back to his early-season form and Hughes continues to pitch at the level he's shown recently, who would you want to be the Yanks' Game 4 starter in the playoffs?

Up Now: Andrew Marchand has plenty on Derek Jeter's milestone hit and CC Sabathia's struggles. I have a notebook on Eduardo Nunez's error and Andy Pettitte's upcoming start and Ian O'Connor has a column on Derek Jeter.

On deck: Nova (11-7, 4.92) faces RHP James Shields (14-8, 3.71 ERA) on Saturday. Andrew Marchand & Co. will have you covered.