New York Yankees: Ivan Nova

Alex RodriguezKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsJoe Girardi said he "anticipated" discussing the possibility with A-Rod of the slugger playing first base at times this season.
TAMPA, Fla. -- He probably won't be playing much third base, but the possibility remains that Alex Rodriguez, banished to the purgatory of right-handed DH, may yet find some playing time at first base.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday he "anticipated" discussing the position shift with A-Rod after the position players officially report to camp Wednesday morning. Rodriguez checked in Monday and has been taking BP and fielding grounders at third across the street at the Yankees' minor league complex.

"I’ll talk to him about taking some grounders over there just to be prepared, if I need to give a guy a day off or however we chose to do it," Girardi said. "But yeah, I’m going to talk to him about it and see how comfortable he is."

On Monday, A-Rod seemed taken aback by the suggestion at first: "Umm, I haven't taken any [grounders at first], I don't think, in my life."

But when asked whether he was willing to give it a shot, Rodriguez said, "I'm willing to try whatever Joe wants me to try."

Not that it will be easy for a player even as athletic as A-Rod was in his prime to make the shift. Baseball history is filled with tales of good players who found the move to first base difficult. Ask Mike Piazza.

"Ground balls aren’t going to be a problem, and throwing the baseball isn’t going to be a problem," Girardi said. "It’s the nuances of first. Holding a guy. Coming off the bag. The bunt plays. Understanding your responsibilities, because now he’s on the other side. Making the 3-6-3 double play, or the 3-6-1. It’s a completely different throw than he’s ever made, for the most part. Understanding the cuts and where you’re supposed to be. When you go over there, it’s not as simple as people think. It’s a pretty complicated position."

Still, assuming A-Rod can hit -- and that's a pretty big assumption -- Girardi said he needs to find ways to get his bat into the lineup. The Yankees signed Garrett Jones in the offseason to back up the oft-injured Mark Teixeira at first, and the bulk of Rodriguez's field time is likely to come when Chase Headley, signed to be the every-day third baseman, needs a day off.

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It raises another novel possibility -- the possibility that Rodriguez, entering his 21st season in the big leagues, may have the kind of spring training veterans are usually spared from, namely having to make a lot of road trips in order to get enough playing time to be ready for Opening Day.

“To me, the most important thing is getting him at-bats," Girardi said. "I’m going to take it week by week, see where he’s at physically and how he’s responding, make sure he’s getting enough at-bats."

A-Rod might also get some of those at-bats in minor league games, although those don't begin until mid-March. It probably means that when the Yankees make a particularly long and difficult road trip, such as the 2½-hour ride down to Fort Myers to face the Red Sox on, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th, Rodriguez will be on that bus. Girardi said he would not shield Rodriguez from the hostile reaction he is likely to get from Red Sox fans.

"It won't be the first time he's dealt with that," Girardi said.

Or the last.

Headley: 'No awkwardness' with Alex: Chase Headley met A-Rod, the man Headley is replacing at third base, for the first time today -- they had spoken on the phone a couple of weeks ago, a call A-Rod initiated -- and said it was just like meeting any other teammate.

"Obviously [the phone call] broke the ice, and today just started the process of getting to know each other better," Headley said. "It was great to meet him and get to talk baseball a little bit. As far as a teammate, I expect him to be great. I’ve heard great things from other guys, and every interaction that I’ve had with him has been positive."

[+] EnlargeIvan Nova
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyIvan Nova said he felt no discomfort in his elbow after throwing off a mound on Tuesday.
Headley, who signed a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract in December, said that it was made clear on both sides that he was coming to play third base, and that the subject of Rodriguez's return barely came up in the negotiations.

“I don’t think we even had to ask that," Headley said. "I think that everybody kind of knew that that monkey was in the closet, and it was going to come out eventually, so we talked about it, and we were comfortable with it."

For his part, A-Rod has called Headley "an excellent addition to our team" and has said he is willing to do anything the club asks of him. But when pressed on whether he felt he could still play third, Rodriguez said, "Yeah."

Based on what? "Based on faith," he said.

Nova, Sabathia, Pineda, Eovaldi throw: That's four-fifths of the Yankees' ideal starting rotation, and all four came out OK, according to Girardi.

For Ivan Nova, it was the third time he's thrown off a mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April, and he was restricted to throwing only fastballs. But Nova said he felt no discomfort in his elbow, which had bothered him on and off for several seasons before he was diagnosed with a torn UCL after just four starts last season.

Bailey is closer: Andrew Bailey, the only truly legitimate closer on the Yankees' roster, threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and believes he has a chance to make the team even though he is just 19 months into a usual 24-month rehab period after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum and capsule in 2013. Bailey has 89 career saves while teammates Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, the two candidates for the closer job, have one each. Bailey said he was able to throw fastballs, curves and changeups without pain for the first time since suffering the injury in July 2013 while a member of the Red Sox. He acknowledges being at least two weeks behind the other pitchers but thinks that if he can get between five and eight appearances before the end of spring training, he might show the Yankees enough to bring him north for Opening Day.

Girardi seemed slightly less optimistic about Bailey's chances.

"I thought today he looked pretty good, actually, but as for Opening Day, I don't know," Girardi said. "Compared to where he was last year to where he is, there’s been significant improvement. [But] his bullpens are a little more spread out than maybe some of the other relievers, and obviously going back to back would probably be somewhat important. He’s a little behind but he looked pretty good today."

Ivan Nova will make $3.3 million

January, 14, 2015
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NEW YORK -- Ivan Nova and the Yankees avoided arbitration and agreed to a contract for 2015, the team announced Wednesday.

A source said the deal was for $3.3 million, which is the same that Nova made last season when he missed most of the year because of Tommy John surgery.

Nova went 2-2 with an 8.47 ERA in his four starts. The Yankees are hopeful Nova can rejoin the rotation by June. His rehabilitation is said to be going well.

The Yankees' rotation, as it stands now, figures to be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano. If Nova returns healthy, he will step in.

Nova turned 28 on Monday.

Mitchell, Daley optioned

April, 21, 2014
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Mitchell
Mitchell
The Yankees have optioned Bryan Mitchell to Double-A and Matt Daley to Triple-A. No corresponding moves have been made yet.

The Yankees could move Ivan Nova to the 60-day DL today if he and the team doctors decide he needs Tommy John surgery. That would create a 40-man roster spot for the club.

Rapid Reaction: Rays 16, Yankees 1

April, 19, 2014
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse than Fright-day Night at the Trop, along came Shudder-day Night.

In what was, statistically, the worst performance by a New York Yankees starter in a century, and maybe the worst all-around team performance in a decade, the Yankees got crushed 16-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

How bad was it? So bad that Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to turn to infielder Dean Anna to pitch the eighth inning.

And compared to the professional pitchers who preceded him, Anna wasn't all that bad. In fact, he was better than Matt Daley and a whole lot better than Ivan Nova.

The gory details:

No good: Nova had a nightmare of a game, allowing a career-high four home runs, including two to Ryan Hanigan, the No. 9 hitter in the Rays lineup.

Nova then left the game at an opportune moment -- two on, none out and Evan Longoria at the plate -- in the fifth inning with what was announced as "right elbow soreness." Two starts back, Nova allowed seven earned runs in 3⅔ innings against the Baltimore Orioles.

Historic performance: According to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Info, Nova is the only Yankees starter in the past 100 years to allow at least eight earned runs and four home runs in four innings or fewer.

Archenemy: The Yankees have now faced Rays starter Chris Archer four times, lost four times and scored a grand total of four earned runs in 28⅔ innings (1.35 ERA). On Saturday, Archer worked into the seventh inning, allowing just three hits (one an infield single) and one run.

Long gone: Who else but Longoria would hit the most impressive homer of all, a moon shot off a first-pitch curveball that nearly hit the top of the dome before landing on the furthest catwalk from home plate, way back in the left-field seats? Ben Zobrist was aboard, giving the Rays a 4-0 lead in the third inning. It gave Longoria the all-time Rays franchise lead, which, if you've seen him hit against the Yankees, you would have thought he already had.

The Daley Double: Wil Myers hit his second home run of the game, a three-run shot, off Daley, who was called up Friday night from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi left Daley in for mop-up duty, but after he allowed four more runs, the manager mercifully pulled him and brought in Dellin Betances with one out in the sixth.

What's next: The series finale on Sunday afternoon. Vidal Nuno (0-0, 14.54 ERA) gets the spot start for the Yankees, opposed by lefty Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50). First pitch is at 1:40 p.m.


NEW YORK -- With the 7-6 New York Yankees tied for first place, here's our initial impressions after the first 13 games:

1. Beltran: Please, God, don't hit it to me: Carlos Beltran stood at first base praying the ball wouldn't be hit to him. A three-time Gold Glove winning outfielder, Beltran had never played first at any level.

"I was like, 'Please, God, hit the ball the other way, somewhere else, shortstop, second base,'" Beltran said after being forced to first because of all the Yankees injuries Sunday in their 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. "God looked out for me. I appreciate that."

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The Yankees are franchise rich in a lot of things, but backup first basemen isn't one of them. With Mark Teixeira out and Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts hurting, Yankees manager Joe Girardi started Francisco Cervelli at first base. Cervelli had played first base only once before, last Tuesday.

In the fourth, Cervelli ran hard down the first-base line, blew out his hamstring and is now headed to the disabled list. Since Girardi wanted to use Jeter only in an emergency, he searched his lineup card for possibilities. He came up with Beltran or Ichiro Suzuki.

Girardi asked both Ichiro and Beltran if either had ever played first. They both said they had not.

"If he had said, 'Go to first,' I might've said, 'I have a hurt leg,'" Ichiro said through his translator and with a laugh.

Girardi chose Beltran based on his bigger frame and put Ichiro in right. In the eighth, Ichriro made a tremendous catch against the wall to rob David Ortiz. It is a play Beltran might not have made.

Meanwhile, no balls were hit to Beltran at first. In the sixth, he completed a 6-3 groundout. In the seventh, he finished off a 5-3 putout.

"I hope I don't have to do it again," Beltran said, smiling.

What Beltran continues to do is hit. He went 3-for-4 with another home run, a two-run shot in the third that gave the Yankees the lead for good. He has hit homers in consecutive days and is tied for the Yankees' lead with three long balls.

2. Captain's concerns: It sounds like Jeter's quad is not a serious injury, but considering Jeter played only 17 games last year, this is still a wait-and-see situation.

Girardi said Jeter was mad on Sunday when the manager told his shortstop he would not be in the lineup for a second straight day.

Jeter has looked good at the plate, hitting .286. At times during the spring, he looked very lost.

3. Tanaka adjusts: You want a good sign after two starts about Masahiro Tanaka? Try this one: Tanaka has the best strikeout-walk ratio of anyone in baseball.

It is only two starts, but Tanaka's struck out 18 and walked just one. Next on the list is Felix Hernandez with 30 strikeouts and two walks. This stat is not the end all, be all, because CC Sabathia is seventh so far in the category.

Still, the point is Tanaka, with all the hype, has adjusted well. He looks like he has a lot of six- or seven-inning, two- or three-run games in that right arm. Tanaka's next start is on Tuesday against the Cubs.

4. Pineda proving it: If Michael Pineda never hurt himself and put these two starts up in 2012, he would be setting New York abuzz. As it is, Yankees fans are becoming pretty excited about Pineda -- as they should be. Since the beginning of the spring, he has been the Yankees' best pitcher.

In his second start, Pineda pumped up his fastball to 95 mph. Combining that with a devastating slider, the Yankees may have a top-of-the-rotation starter in their 25-year-old arm.

By the way, not only are the Yankees winning the Jesus Montero trade because of Pineda, but Jose Campos, too, the other pitcher in the trade. The 21-year-old impressed several Yankees with his stuff during the spring. Meanwhile, Montero is struggling at Triple-A, and the Mariners gave up on Hector Noesi, who is now a Ranger.

5. Bullpen questions: Besides injuries, if you asked me the biggest area of concern so far, I would say the bullpen. However, there are some good signs.

With David Robertson out, Shawn Kelley is the closer. Kelley still needs to prove he is consistent enough to be an eighth-inning guy. I'm not positive on that one yet, though he looked pretty good again Sunday night, picking up his third save.

Adam Warren and Dellin Betances could challenge Kelley for the eighth-inning spot. Both young guys have thrown heat and looked very good in the process. David Phelps is also in the mix.

So there is some upside with this group, but they are untested.

6. CC's Velo: It is hard to imagine CC Sabathia ever dominating again with a 90-mph fastball. We have already seen it in his first three starts, where he can get buy for a few innings but then is beat by one or two mistakes. At 94-95 mph, you can get away with more.

Can Sabathia reinvent himself into a No. 2 or 3 with his softer stuff? Yes, he can. He has showed that he can still get guys out.

7. McCann's a pro: Brian McCann has started a little slow, but the guy is a pro. You can tell why he was very popular in Atlanta. The pitchers really love throwing to him because he takes as much pride in his defense as his offense.

8. Injuries: The Yankees have already been bit hard by the injury bug. Three of them were sort of predictable. Teixeira, Roberts and Jeter have all been hurt in recent years. Like Robertson, the Yankees don't really have a replacement for Teixeira. They will likely need contributions from both Robertson and Teixeira if they are going to make the playoffs.

9. Gotta call Sol: Yangervis Solarte has been the biggest surprise of the season. After barely beating out Eduardo Nunez for the last roster spot, you could make a case that he has been the MVP for the Yankees for the first 13 games. It wouldn't be a winning case, but he is at least in the conversation. That's pretty good for "Never Nervous Yangervis."

10. 2-for-3: Ivan Nova has been good Nova twice and bad Nova once. This is the year Nova could graduate to a top of the starting rotation. On Sunday night, he had his best start, going 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs against the Red Sox.

[+] EnlargeIvan Nova
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsIvan Nova remained sharp in his second win.
His first start in Houston, where he pitched with only his fastball working, was actually encouraging because he went 5 2/3 innings against the Astros and gave up only two runs. That's pretty good with one pitch.

11. Built for the Bronx: The Yankees thought Kelly Johnson's left-handed swing was perfect for Yankee Stadium. During this first homestand, he has made the front office look pretty good. Johnson has three homers, which is tied for the team lead. He's hit them all at home.

12. Ells of a start: In the first year of his seven-year deal, you had to feel that Jacoby Ellsbury would deliver, if healthy. He is an impressive player to watch every day. He brings a dynamic speed game that the Yankees haven't had much of in recent years. He finished off Sunday night's game with a nice sliding catch off Grady Sizemore that not every center fielder snares.

13. Legends don't go quietly: Ichiro's position was supposed to be left out, but future Hall of Famers don't go quietly. Ichiro has appeared in nine games and has contributed a lot both at the plate and in the field. He is hitting .421 in 19 at-bats.

Even though he didn't have much of an argument considering his offensive numbers the past few years, he has handled his demotion with class. He is putting himself in position for more playing time.

Question: What have you thought of the first 13 games?

For Nova, no more excuses

April, 8, 2014
4/08/14
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Ivan NovaJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesThe Yankees don't want to send Ivan Nova back to Triple-A -- yet again -- to set him straight.
NEW YORK -- Ivan Nova has not earned the benefit of the doubt. So while Nova and the Yankees can say they want to simply throw these first two starts out as quickly as a couple of 90-plus mph fastballs, they can't do it.

Not when Nova has yet to put together a full season of consistent success.

This is the year Nova could graduate to the top-half of the Yankees' rotation. But after a strong spring training, he left his curveball and slider in Tampa.

In his first start against the Astros, he found a way to wiggle 5 2/3 innings of two-run baseball with just a fastball and nothing else. On Tuesday, he wasn't so lucky in the Yankees' 14-5 loss. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits.

"Two things -- the sinker didn't have a lot of sink to it and was up in the zone," Joe Girardi said. "And his curveball wasn't very sharp. That's not a very good combination for him, seeing those are his bread-and-butter pitches. He wasn't sharp today."

Still, the manager offered Nova an alibi.

"I wouldn't make too much of two starts," Girardi said. "I know it is glaring in the beginning, but I always say this: if it is in the middle of the year, you probably don't say too much about it."

If it is CC Sabathia in his prime, then, fine, he starts with two rusty outings and you feel as if he will come back strong.

Nova? He has ended up at Scranton -- so Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred and others could try to fix him -- in three of the past four years.

Nova, 27, could turn it around quickly because he has the ability. He just hasn't harnessed it for a full season.

Dating back to last year, when he finished the season pitching better than any of the Yankees' starters, Nova had made 24 straight starts in which he allowed four runs or fewer. It was the third-longest streak in the majors behind Jose Fernandez (27 starts) and Ubaldo Jimenez (25 starts). Still, Nova needed a tuneup in the minors in 2013 to rev up his engines.

"If he wants to go to the next level as a pitcher, it is putting two halves together that are really good," said Girardi.

On Tuesday, the first inning could have been different if Derek Jeter had more range. The Yankees will honor Jeter's place in franchise history and his legendary accomplishments all season, but the nearly 40-year-old shortstop doesn't move around as well as he once did. Jeter probably should have gotten to a potential double play ball hit by the second batter of the game. Delmon Young's grounder to the left side of second base was a ball other shortstops likely grab and turn into two outs.

"He dove," Giradi said. "He did everything he could to make the play. It seemed to get through the infield fairly quickly. He did everything he could."

When Nova was asked if he thought it should have been a double play ball, he demurred.

"You never know," Nova said. "Like I said, I feel I threw a couple of good pitches. A lot of things happen back there in the game. That's part of it. Of course, you want to get your double plays and get your outs quick. It didn't work that way."

After a sac fly, Nova gave up a two-run homer to Adam Jones. The Yankees were down three before they even came to bat.

To turn into a pro's pro, like Hiroki Kuroda, this was when Nova needed to settle down instead of unravel. He needed to put the first inning behind him and pitch well; especially with the Yankees' depleted bullpen.

He didn't do it Tuesday, but the Yankees will need him to do it moving forward. Sabathia is not going to be the ace he once was, while Kuroda still must show that 2013's late fade was just a blip. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda -- who make their Bronx debuts Wednesday and Thursday, respectively -- are exciting, but still young.

This leaves Nova needing to put together a full year, earning himself the benefit of the doubt.

In other words, no excuses.

2014 Projections: Yankees rotation, closer

March, 28, 2014
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CC Sabathia, Mahahiro Tanaka, Michael PinedaGetty ImagesCC Sabathia, Mahahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda could make the Yanks' starting five a strength.
The Yankees' pitching is going to be intriguing to watch from start to finish.

Can CC Sabathia regain his ace form? Will Hiroki Kuroda continue to look old or be revived? Does Ivan Nova have the consistency for a solid full season? Will Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda excel on baseball's biggest stage?

All that, and David Robertson will attempt to replace the greatest closer of all time.

So how will it all shake out? Well, ESPN New York has its projections, as does Dan Szymborski and his fancy ZiPS machine. So let’s take a look at what might be a strength of this club.

As we did for the lineup yesterday, we have assigned each Yankees pitcher to one of three categories, compared with the team's performance on the mound last year: On the Way Up, On the Way Down or Push.

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Sabathia
Sabathia
CC Sabathia, LHP
2013: 14-13, 4.78 ERA
ESPN New York Projection: 14-12, 4.15 ERA
ZiPS Projection: 13-11, 4.03 ERA


PUSH: Sabathia was no longer an ace in 2013. In fact, he was barely a fifth starter. His velocity was down, and so was his dominance. He still gave the Yankees 211 innings, which is valuable and demonstrates Joe Girardi's continued faith in the big lefty.

Now, Slim CC is looking to reinvent himself. He knows he needs to because he admits the velocity may not come back. If it doesn’t, Sabathia realizes he will have to be a different type of starter. His smarts have probably been underrated in the past because of his power. Now, they will be on full display.

He should be better than last year, but far from dominant.

***

Kuroda
Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP
2013: 11-13, 3.31
ESPN New York Projection: 13-11, 3.91
ZiPS Projection: 13-9, 3.74 ERA


ON THE WAY DOWN: Kuroda is a pro’s pro, but that doesn’t stop the aging process. He is 39 and he finished last season in bad shape. He could be OK this year, but overall he will regress.

Kuroda was so good for most of last season, which inflated his final numbers. He won’t be as bad as how he ended, but he won’t be as good as how he started.

***

Cano
Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
2013: 24-0, 1.27 ERA (Japan)
ESPN New York Projection: 16-7, 3.42 ERA
ZiPS Projection: 12-8, 3.68 ERA


ON THE WAY UP: To begin last year, the Yankees had a 26-year-old starter who once had the potential to be an ace. Phil Hughes never could complement his plus fastball with anything more than a curveball. The changeup he desperately needed to get through lineups a few times never developed with the Yankees.

Why do we bring this up in talking about Tanaka? Tanaka turns 26 in November and by then we will know how his rookie year went. The reason he will fare better in the Bronx than someone like Hughes is because he has control of his seven pitches and his splitter and slider are pluses.

He has very good, but maybe not dominant stuff. Still, he can throw it with such accuracy you should see a lot of six-inning, two-run outings.

***

Nova
Nova
Ivan Nova, RHP
2013: 9-6, 3.10 ERA
ESPN New York Projection: 17-9, 3.02 ERA
ZiPS Projection: 11-9, 3.98


ON THE WAY UP: If you want a guy who could emerge as the new ace, Nova is as good of a choice as any. He also could end up making his annual summer vacation in Scranton.

This is the year we find out if Nova can put together a full season. Whether it's been a byproduct of luck or not, he has always won games. Nova’s winning percentage (37-18, .673) is the third highest in baseball of any starter with at least 50 career starts. Only Kris Medlen (30-13, .698) and Lance Lynn (33-16, .673) are better.

For the final three months of last season, he pitched like a guy who deserved to have a record like that.

***

Pineda
Pineda
Michael Pineda, RHP
2013: Did not pitch
ESPN New York Projection: 13-8, 3.75
ZiPS Projection: 4-4, 4.65


ON THE WAY UP: Here is one underemphasized part of Pineda’s spring: He looked much more comfortable in the clubhouse. When he arrived from Seattle in 2011 with too much weight and not enough fastball, he seemed overwhelmed by being a Yankee. When a reporter approached, his eyes grew large as if he'd just seen a ghost.

Now, with his English a bit improved, his weight down and his fastball gaining momentum, Pineda seems much more at ease in the clubhouse. The whirlwind of the past two years may lead to much success for Pineda. To me, he is the X factor for this team.

***

Robertson
Robertson
David Robertson, RHP
2013: 5-1, 2.04 ERA, 5 saves
ESPN New York Projection: 2-4, 1.95 ERA, 36 saves
ZiPS Projection: 5-2, 2.74 ERA, 35 saves


PUSH: Robertson is replacing Mariano Rivera for 2014, not forever. It is an important distinction. Can Robertson have the longevity Rivera had? Almost definitely not. Can he be as good in 2014 as Rivera was in 2013? He sure can.

Rivera had 44 saves and a 2.11 ERA in 2013. Robertson should be able to come close to duplicating that in 2014. The bigger question is if the Yankees can get the ball to him.

Question 8: Will Nova go the distance?

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
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Ivan NovaJonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsIs this the year Ivan Nova goes wire-to-wire for the Yankees?
As we count down to Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand will answer 14 for '14 -- the top 14 questions facing the 2014 New York Yankees. The series will run until the eve of the first pitch between the Yankees and the Astros on Tuesday, April 1, and will end with both Matthews and Marchand making their predictions for the season.

Question: Will Ivan Nova put together a full season in 2014?

Andrew Marchand: Nova started 2013 with a 2-1 record, a 5.16 ERA and a ticket to Triple-A by the end of May. He returned toward the end of June, went 7-5 with a 2.70 ERA and clearly was the Yankees' best starter.

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Will Ivan Nova put together a full season in 2014?

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It is an annual rite of summer that Nova ends up in Scranton for a Triple-A tune-up, so does anyone think 2014 will be different? I do.

I think this will be the season Nova puts together a full year. Why? There aren't great tangible reasons. He is 27 and showed he could be pretty dominant for a three-month period. Now, he must do that for three more months. My gut says he will.

It is funny to think Nova may be the surest thing in the Yankees' starting rotation. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda struggled in 2013. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have never thrown a pitch in a real game for the Yankees. That leaves Nova as a guy the Yankees must count on. I think he'll deliver with a 17-9 record and 3.02 ERA.

Wallace Matthews I trust Andrew's gut, but I'm not so sure I trust Nova. He has great stuff, but as Andrew points out, Nova is 27 and has been around long enough to know the score, which is why I found it a little perturbing earlier this spring when Nova said he has just come to understand he needs to focus more on the mound.

My gut tells me Nova will pretty much be the same Nova he has always been: extremely talented and capable of throwing some great games. And occasionally maddening and capable of going into a funk within a game or within a season. I'll go 16-14 with an ERA closer to 4.

Postgame notes: Nova, Ellsbury to minors

March, 23, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have a day off Monday -- a day for players to rest and for managers, coaches and front-office types to discuss and decide who's staying here and who's going north when the club breaks camp next Saturday.

Except for two of them: Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli have a work day across the field at the Player Development complex. In an effort to keep him on his every-five-days routine, Nova will pitch in a minor league game at 11 a.m., and Cervelli (lucky guy) will catch him.

Then on Tuesday, while the rest of the Yankees prepare to host the Phillies in a night game at The Boss, Jacoby Ellsbury -- who has been out since March 15 with a calf injury -- will play in another minor league game at the same complex. Unless of course it rains, in which case Girardi said he might hold Ellsbury back another day so he can play in a minor league game on Wednesday. Under no conditions, it seems, will Girardi test his $153 million center fielder against major leaguers until he shows he can survive a minor league game first.

Still, both he and Ellsbury maintain there is plenty of time -- the Yankees have five spring games left -- for Ellsbury to be ready for the season opener on April 1.

"I just want to get him some at-bats," Girardi said. "We'll figure out what it is."

Balsa wood: The Yankees had eight hits in Sunday's 3-1 loss, but most of them were of the hollow variety with the exception of Ichiro Suzuki's ground-rule double in the sixth that bounced over the right-field fence and was close to being a home run. The shot continued Suzuki's mastery of Mark Buehrle, against whom Ichiro has a .421 career batting average in real games. Carlos Beltran (2-for-3) also had a double in the inning. Brett Gardner had two singles. The Yankees scored their only run on a double-play grounder by Derek Jeter, who went 0-for-3 to drop his spring average to .114.

"I’m not really too worried about it," Girardi said. "It is spring training, and he was off almost like a year and a half. He feels better at the plate, his timing feels like he’s closer, so I’m not too worried."

Ryan's hope: Girardi said Brendan Ryan, who has been suffering from upper back spasms, felt better Sunday. "It’s nice to see him where he can actually turn his head," Girardi said. It's still unlikely that Ryan, who has not played since March 4, will start the season anywhere other than the disabled list.

Ivan Nova gets into the act

March, 19, 2014
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Ivan NovaJonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsNo. 4 starter Ivan Nova tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings at the Braves on Wednesday.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With less than two weeks until Opening Day, the Yankees seem to have three-fifths of an outstanding starting staff.

The two question marks are the two starters you'd never expect the Yankees to have questions about -- their ace, CC Sabathia, and their No. 2, Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched like an ace for most of last season.

The back end of the rotation looks solid, even fearsome, these days now that Ivan Nova, who came to camp anointed the No. 4 starter but was pitching more like a No. 6, has turned in an ace-worthy performance in his second-to-last start of the spring.

Given a leash of 85 to 90 pitches, Nova needed just 79 to get through six innings against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, so Joe Girardi sent him out for the seventh, the deepest any of his starters has gone this spring. The manager allowed Nova to get the first out of the inning and then pulled him after 6 1/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball in which he walked none and struck out five. The outing dropped Nova's spring ERA from an unsightly 5.40 to a respectable 3.66 and raised his strikeout-to-walk ratio to an unheard of 21-2.

Needless to say, it was a masterful performance from a pitcher who has often shown the ability to deliver one, if not always the focus to do it consistently, even from inning to inning.

Coming a day after an almost equally masterful performance by Michael Pineda, and three days before the next episode of Tanakapalooza, Nova's outing conjured visions of a starting staff without any soft spots, provided those first two can get their acts together.

"I said from the beginning, we have a really good rotation," Nova said. "The addition of Tanaka and what he's been doing so far, and all the guys behind, with Pineda now coming back, I feel real good about the team that we have right now."

Nova's outing was made somewhat easier by the Yankees' lineup, which staked him to a 3-0 lead on a first-inning RBI single by Carlos Beltran and a two-run double in the fourth by Adonis Garcia, playing because Beltran was the DH and Jacoby Ellsbury was in Tampa nursing a calf injury. Beltran singled in another run in the seventh, and a fifth scored on a Braves' throwing error. Atlanta relievers walked two more runs in in the ninth for a 7-0 final at Champions Stadium.

Derek Jeter, making his final appearance at the Braves' spring training facility, was cheered raucously by the Yankees-fan heavy crowd, and Brian McCann, making his first appearance here since signing with the Yankees after playing his previous nine seasons for Atlanta, got some healthy applause.

But the star of the day was Nova, who used an outstanding curveball along with his mid-90s fastball to limit the Braves to two hits, one a bloop to right that probably should have been caught by Alfonso Soriano, and just two hard-hit balls -- Ryan Doumit's pinch-hit double in the sixth and a long fly by Justin Upton that Brett Gardner caught against the center-field fence in the fourth.

"He pitched a great game," McCann said. "He had some really good action today again on the sinker. He was putting it wherever he wanted it. His curve was a very good weapon. And for me, his changeup is a really good pitch too, the way he works it inside to righties."

"He was getting the ball up early in the game," Girardi said. "But he made a great adjustment, got it down, and then he was really, really good."

Nova said the biggest adjustment has been between his ears and that he is finally starting to figure out the things he needs to do to get better. He related a recent bullpen conversation with Larry Rothschild in which the pitching coach asked Nova what he wanted to work on.

"I just want to keep my ball down," Nova said he told him.

The answer brought a smile to Rothschild's face. "Wow, I remember when I used to ask you and you’d say, 'I don’t know; you tell me,'" Nova said.

To Nova, that answer signified a newly acquired understanding of the requirements of pitching at this level.

"Now I have the confidence to know that I want to work on this or I want to work on that," he said. "I feel good with the way this is going so far.”

So must the Yankees.

Yankees' starting pitching looks deep

March, 19, 2014
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Vidal Nuno, Michael Pineda, David PhelpsAP Photo/USA TODAY SportsVidal Nuno, Michael Pineda and David Phelps et al could help pitch the Yankees into October.
Michael Pineda has fired nine scoreless innings for the Yankees this spring.

"He's been the most dominant pitcher on their staff so far," one scout said.

But Pineda is not alone in looking good in the Grapefruit League.

Vidal Nuno has allowed just one run and three hits in six innings. Adam Warren's line is 8 2/3 innings and two runs. Bringing up the caboose in the fifth-starter competition is David Phelps, with a measly 2.63 ERA.

This is all very encouraging, because with all the "Is CC Sabathia still an ace or not?" talk, it is probably more important that the Yankees have rotation depth than a certified ace.

Teams need anywhere from six to eight starters to complete the approximately 1,000 starter innings over the course of a 162-game season. So the focus on who will be slotted to start the fifth game of the year is a bit overblown when the Yankees may need someone new for the 15th game, the 65th, the 105th and so on.

That doesn't mean the top of the rotation isn't vital. There is little doubt Sabathia's reinvention as more of a finesse pitcher will be key. Hiroki Kuroda must be more like the Cy Young candidate of the first four months of 2013 than the worn-out righty of the final weeks.

But even if those two take a step back from top form, the Yankees' regular-season rotation could move forward because of its possible depth.

A year ago at this time, the Yankees' rotation was Sabathia, Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.

Despite the Yankees' injury-ravaged season, that fivesome stayed healthy for the most part and still the Yankees needed to give nearly 12 percent of their 162 starts to Phelps (12), Nuno (3), Warren (2) and David Huff (2).

This year, the Yankees' rotation should be: Sabathia, Kuroda, Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda.

The Yankees should have three starters under 27 and some solid reserves. Phelps could start the year as the long man with either Warren and/or Nuno heading the Triple-A rotation, one injury from the big club.

One Yankees insider speculated that Nuno could be the second lefty on the major league club with Warren going to Triple-A to be ready to start or be the long man when the inevitable injury occurs.

Warren may be undervalued a bit by some because his debut in 2012 was so awful. Looking overmatched, he allowed six runs in 2 1/3 innings as a spot starter. But in 2013, mostly as a reliever, he went 3-2 with a 3.39 ERA. In his two starts, he was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Warren has kept up that positive momentum this spring. He doesn't overwhelm anyone, but he has proved to be successful. The same holds true for the 26-year-old Nuno, who had a 2.25 ERA over five major league games and three starts in 2013 before a groin injury halted his season.

A scout said Nuno is able to use a couple of different breaking balls to make up for his lack of velocity.

"He doesn't beat himself," the scout said. "There is not a lot of margin for error, but he doesn't seem to make mistakes."

All the fifth-starter competitors have looked good, while Pineda has looked great. This depth could ultimately be why the Yankees advance to October.

Notes: Tex knocks off the rust

March, 8, 2014
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TeixeiraAP Photo/Alex BrandonThe Yankees are counting on a healthy return for Mark Teixeira.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When you talk about the most important New York Yankees of 2014, Mark Teixeira might not be first, but he is high on the list.

When you consider the Yankees have no true backup for him, Teixeira's importance swells. On Saturday, he doubled in his second start of the spring. Overall, Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a walk.

"I really am knocking the rust off," Teixeira said.

Teixeira played just 15 games last season because of wrist surgery. He said he will next play Tuesday in Viera against the Washington Nationals.

GAME CHANGES: Ivan Nova left with a poor line -- four innings, three runs (all earned) on eight hits with five strikeouts and no walks -- but he showed the ability to adjust.

When you look at how Nova has grown -- and will continue to grow -- as a starter, it is his ability to make in-game changes. Nova got hit hard in the first -- he gave up half of his hits and two of his runs in the inning -- but then made a little change so he wasn't leaving his pitches up. It is a small thing now, but if he can continue to do that during the regular season, it'll make a difference in winning games and saving the bullpen.

KELLY'S A HERO: Starting third baseman Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer. Johnson, who is the backup to everything, will give first base a try Sunday at Steinbrenner Field.

"It would be a lot weirder if I was younger, a little newer in the game," Johnson said. "I've been around just enough to feel a little more comfortable."

Johnson has played first base just three times in the majors.

Jeter to play in back-to-back games

March, 3, 2014
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter is scheduled to play back-to-back games for the first time this spring.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Brian Blanco/Getty ImagesJeter's still searching for his first hit of the spring, but Joe Girardi doesn't sound concerned.
He'll play Tuesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field after playing Monday, when he made a throwing error in the sixth inning and went 0-for-3.

Jeter is 0-for-7 overall, but manager Joe Girardi remains happy with Jeter's progress. "Pretty good," Girardi said. "I am pleased with what he is doing."

Girardi originally said Jeter would play shortstop Tuesday, but later, through a spokesman, explained he misspoke and Jeter was always scheduled to DH.

Part of the reason Jeter is playing Tuesday is that he is not making either of the road trips the following two days.

BIG THURSDAY: Girardi confirmed that Mark Teixeira will make his spring debut Thursday in Clearwater against the Phillies. Alfonso Soriano (flu-like symptoms) is also expected to start for the first time, the manager said. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound.

SUPER NOVA: Ivan Nova threw three perfect innings Monday, striking out four and throwing strikes on 31 of his 36 pitches.

"I love where he is at right now," Girardi said.

After Nova was done with his economical three innings, he had to throw 10 more pitches in the bullpen in order to reach his prescribed quota for the day.

Nova could start the third game of the regular season to split up Hiroki Kuroda and Tanaka. Both Japanese starters throw splitters, so it may not be ideal for them to pitch back-to-back.

D-ROB DEBUTS: David Robertson threw a scoreless inning Monday.

"It was a decent outing," Robertson said. "My velocity was good."

How do the Yankees get to 95 wins?

February, 13, 2014
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YankeesScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesSpring is almost here (believe it or not). Do you think the Yanks are a 95-win team?
Neither David Schoenfield nor Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections are bullish on the New York Yankees being an upper-echelon team in 2014.

But what if the Yankees win in 2014 like they’ve spent this past offseason -- at a high volume?

Let’s crank the projected win total for the Yankees up to 95 games, which feels like a good number for a best-case scenario.

Roughly speaking, that would mean that the players on their roster combined for about 47 Wins Above Replacement (the reasoning on that can be found here).

How do the Yankees get there?

We roughed out a projection of WAR values for Yankees players and noted it in the chart below. Fair warning: You’re going to read this and say, "Wow, that’s asking a lot."

But winning 95 games isn’t easy. Here are some of the highlights.

Welcome to the Bronx
For the Yankees to be really good in 2014, they need their high-impact signings to live up to expectations.

We gave the combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka and Brian McCann 15 WAR between them, with Ellsbury basically at what was nearly a 6-WAR output in 2013, Tanaka pitching to All-Star level at 5 WAR and McCann reaching the 4-WAR mark for the first time since 2008. We also gave Carlos Beltran 2.5 WAR, a near-duplicate of his 2013 number (2.4) with the St. Louis Cardinals.

It may not seem smart to presume a decent level of health and production from Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, but remember that this exercise is to look at the season from a best-case perspective. We’ll plug in 3-WAR for the two of them.

Many happy returns (from injury)
There are going to be plenty of doubters as to whether Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Michael Pineda can return from their injury setbacks at anything close to the level at which they previously performed. In the case of Teixeira and especially Jeter, age would seem to be an issue.

For the Yankees to get to 95 wins, those two are going to need to turn back the clock. In such a scenario, Teixeira returns to what he was in 2011 (when he was a 2.9 WAR player) and Jeter gets back to something resembling his 2.2 WAR season of 2012.

As for Pineda, if we peg him to be two-thirds the pitcher he was when he impressed as a rookie with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, you’re looking at 1.5 WAR. We’d think the Yankees would be pretty happy with that.

Repeat after me
To win 95 games, you need a degree of consistency. The players you count on need to come through at their expected levels of production. A couple of cases in point.

Brett Gardner has been a 4-WAR player in three of the past four seasons (yes, he was 3.9 in one of those, but the point's the same). Gardner will be a free agent after next season. If you want 95 wins, you need a nice salary drive from him.

Alfonso Soriano has been worth at least 2-WAR in three of the past four seasons. That’s going to come to an end eventually. But if you’re going to win 95 games, it needs to continue for another season.

Ivan Nova has been worth at least 3-WAR in two of the past three seasons. He’ll be 27 in 2014 and just entering his prime. Asking for another 3-WAR campaign seems reasonable in this scenario.

Aging gracefully
If you’re worried about the way 2013 ended for CC Sabathia (a 5.20 ERA in his last seven starts) and Hiroki Kuroda (a 6.56 ERA in his last eight starts), you should be.

But if we’re creating a world of best cases for the Yankees, it’s one in which both of these pitchers bounce back. Split up the numbers any way you like, but we’re giving them 7-WAR between them.

If you want to think of it in simpler terms, picture a season like Sabathia’s 2012, in which he was worth 3.5 WAR after pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 200 innings.

SportsNation

How many games will the Yankees win this year?

  •  
    30%
  •  
    42%
  •  
    18%
  •  
    5%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,581)

The bridge to “Ro”
The Yankees don’t need David Robertson to be Mariano Rivera to be a 95-win team.

So long as Robertson is something in between what he was in 2012 and 2013 (when he averaged 2.1 WAR), the Yankees should be all right.

Perhaps more important is the change in who regularly pitches the eighth inning (with Robertson transitioning to closer) and who are the lefty and righty specialists (the departure of Boone Logan is the hole here).

What the Yankees most need is for these not to be headaches. We’ve plugged in numbers for the likes of Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton and Adam Warren, and you can tinker with them however you wish. The key is that they’re contributing (and not costing) half a win here, half a win there.

What are the chances? You tell us
One of the great things about spring training is the optimism that comes with the belief that this could be a great year.

The Yankees have spent the money. Now we’ll see if they reap the benefits.

There are other ways the Yankees can get to 95 wins, and you can play with the numbers, adding here and subtracting there to come up with your own win total.

Do you buy into our best-case scenario? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Pregame notes: Nova good to go

September, 12, 2013
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BALTIMORE -- For the first time in awhile, the Yankees got some good news out of their bullpen: Ivan Nova went into it, threw some pitches, and came out proclaiming himself ready to make his next scheduled start Sunday night against the Red Sox in Boston.

"They haven’t told me anything but that’s what I’m expecting," said Nova, who left his start Tuesday after six innings with some tightness in his right triceps.

Joe Girardi, too, said, "I think he’s ready to go, I do. Obviously we'll watch him, but this is not the first time we’ve dealt with this in the course of the season, and he's pitched very well for us. To me it's probably a lot of the same of what he's been dealing with, and it's just part of being a pitcher."

Nova is slated to face Clay Buchholz in the series finale.

Alex Rodriguez is the DH for the second game in a row, and Girardi said it was A-Rod's choice not to play third base tonight due to lingering soreness in his left hamstring. "He said he felt better, [but] he didn’t tell me that he felt great, so I just decided to DH him. I think it’s something we’ve got to watch a little bit.”

• It is still not conclusively determined if Austin Romine suffered a concussion Tuesday night when he took a foul ball off his mask in the seventh inning and had to leave the game. Romine, who suffered dizziness after the game, said he has been feeling a little bit better every day since, and was slated to take an ImPACT test, a computerized exam to determine if he in fact did suffer a concussion, during tonight's game.

Boone Logan said his left elbow was feeling a bit better today and would play catch before the game, although Girardi said he wasn't sure if that was the case. The manager did say he believed Logan's MRI had been evaluated by Dr. James Andrews and came back clean. Logan still will not pitch for a few days, at minimum.

• It is unlikely that Mariano Rivera, who has appeared in the past two games and three of the past four, throwing 74 pitches in the process, will be available tonight. Girardi said he would speak to Rivera before the game but didn't sound very gung-ho about using him tonight.

• The Red Sox announced they will honor Mo before his final appearance at Fenway Park on Sunday night. "That should be interesting," Girardi said. "I'm sure he'll get a lot of respect there for what he's done in his career. They have great fans there. I thought I heard some cheers the last time he came in a game there. I think people appreciate what he's done and what he's meant to the game."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146