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Afternoon notes: Nova, Youk, Mesa

BRADENTON, Fla. -- After being shut out in two games on Saturday, the Yankees offense exploded for 11 runs today against Pittsburgh at McKechnie Field. And they needed just about every one of them, as the Pirates, down 8-0 after three innings, battled back to score three in the fourth, one in the fifth and four in the bottom of the ninth to lose, 11-9. The highlights:

GETTING IVAN: Ivan Nova was treated to an eight-run lead but gave back half of it before he left after five innings. Nova got himself into trouble by walking ex-teammate Russell Martin leading off the fourth, then allowed an RBI double, hit a batter, gave up another RBI double and a sacrifice fly. In the fifth, he served up a home run ball to Clint Barmes. His line -- 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER -- was not much different from that of David Phelps, with whom he is battling for the last rotation spot, in Saturday night's 4-0 loss to the Braves.

YOUK NUKES ANOTHER: Kevin Youkilis hit his (at the time) team-leading third home run of the spring, a two-run shot in the first, and doubled in another run in the second. Youkilis is hitting .308 with three HRs and 6 RBI this spring.

GRAND DAY: Melky Mesa strengthened his claim to a roster spot, although in a rather unusual fashion -- with his bat -- clubbing a third-inning grand slam to pull even with Youkilis in home runs (3) and take the team lead in RBIs this spring with 9. Mesa was also a central figure in a bizarre third inning play when he misplayed Josh Harrison's sinking liner to right-center, dropping it after he had seemingly made the catch, and then airmailed a throw that nearly sailed over first baseman Juan Rivera's head. But the runner at first, Travis Snider, thinking Mesa had caught the ball, left second base and ran back to first, where he was tagged out by Rivera. It went into the books as a routine foreceout, which it most certainly was not.

DAY OF REST: The Yankees have an off-day on Monday, their second of the spring, although four of them will be working. Phil Hughes will throw a simulated game at the minor-league complex at noon, followed by Andy Pettitte making a start in a minor-league game for the Tampa Yankees at 1 p.m. Since it's his throw day, Mariano Rivera will also be working; he'll come in to relieve Pettitte. And Francisco Cervelli is being called in to catch both of them.