Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New York Yankees [Print without images]

Thursday, March 7, 2013
First Pitch: Nova Time

By Andrew Marchand

TAMPA, Fla. -- Who is the real Ivan Nova? Is he the guy who just wins? Or is he the guy who just gets nailed for extra-base hit after extra-base hit?

Ivan Nova
Ivan Nova
In other words, is Nova lucky or good?

Nova is entering what could be his third full major league season and we still don’t know who he is as a pitcher. In 2011, the Yankees demoted him in the middle of a personal winning streak, though he finished the year having won 16 of his 20 rookie decisions. The Yankees won 19 of his 27 starts, which was the best by any starter not named Justin Verlander that year.

In 2012, he won 12 games with a five-plus ERA, joining Randy Johnson and Richard Dotson as the only Yankees to do that in the last 80 years. He also allowed 87 extra-base hits, tying Ian Kennedy's club record for one season.

So Nova, 26, is left trying to win the fifth starter job this spring. In his first real test on Tuesday, David Phelps pitched well, going four innings and allowing just a run. It was a good showing.

On Thursday in Jupiter, Nova will take the mound as the Yankees try to understand who he is and how good he will be. And, after two years, if they can count on him.

UP NOW: Mark Teixeira is hurt, but Brian Cashman is keeping the faith. Derek Jeter thinks he is almost ready to play in a game. Curtis Granderson is happy about staying in center.

ON DECK: I will be in Jupiter as the Yankees start a two-game road trip. Thursday, they play the Cardinals. Friday, it is the Marlins. Saturday, it is back in Tampa where Mariano Rivera is expected to make his debut.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think Nova is a quality starter?