Ivan Nova shook his right arm, and the Yankees said that was their first indication that something was physically wrong. It was Tony Pena who pointed it out from the bench — “I said, ‘Joe, check him out,’” Pena said. “I saw him right away. Just one pitch.” — and when Girardi went to the mound, Nova said his elbow hurt, but he wanted to stay in the game. There was no chance of that.
“Obviously you’re really concerned,” Girardi said. “Whenever a guy leaves a game because he feels something, you’re always concerned.”
Nova had his first really good start of the year last time out. Tonight start ended with Nova heading for an MRI machine, and the Yankees seemed to be bracing themselves for the worst. Nova’s had arm trouble in the past, including forearm and triceps issues that very easily could have been connected to the elbow. Girardi, though, said he was never worried about an injury until he saw Nova shake his arm on that final pitch.
“I just saw it on that last pitch,” Brian McCann said. “I saw him wince. That’s the only time I saw it.”
Said Girardi: “I think it was the one pitch.”
Girardi said Nova had not complained about anything physical this year, and the Yankees felt that tonight’s velocity was an indication that Nova was simply bad, not hurt.
“He had never complained; he had made every one of his starts,” Girardi said. “There was nothing that was telling me (he was hurt). You didn’t see like he was throwing 85, his fastball 85. His fastball was pretty consistent the whole night, the same speed, so it wasn’t really anything that told me. Tony saw it, and we ran out.”
Now the Yankees could be faced with the very real possibility of having to replace a starter less than three weeks into the season.
“Any time you lose a starter, it’s a big blow,” Girardi said. “Starters aren’t easy to replace. Obviously there’s concern, and we’ll know a lot more by tomorrow morning I’m sure. It’s tough to replace starters.”
· Girardi said the Yankees will make “more than one” move tomorrow. Activating Mark Teixeira will be one move. The other moves will surely involve the pitching staff. Josh Norris has reported that Double-A starter Bryan Mitchell will be one of the call-ups. Dan Barbarisi hears that Triple-A reliever Preston Claiborne will be another.
· Mitchell and Claiborne are on the 40-man roster, which might be the best way to explain those two as the call-up choices. Mitchell last pitched on Monday, so I assume he was simply the best suited for a potential long relief need. Claiborne has allowed a ton of baserunners in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but this really does seem to be primarily a short-term fix while the Yankees figure out what exactly they need and what exactly they have going forward.
· Either Matt Daley or Dellin Betances — Daley would be my guess — could be sent to Triple-A tomorrow after both were used for 41 pitches tonight. After the rest of the bullpen was used last night, those two were really the only fresh arms in the pen, and so the Yankees tried to get long relief work out of both of them. With two pitchers expected to be called up, it’s entirely possible one of those two will pay for tonight’s effort by giving up his roster spot.
· Dean Anna said he hadn’t pitched in a game since he was 11. “I talked to him and I said, look, I don’t want to come out and yell at you if you’re throwing too hard,” Girardi said. “I want you to lob it in there. That’s all I want you to do. Just do not hurt your arm. Just play catch. And he did a really good job of doing that.”
· Anna was actually one hit away from a scoreless eighth, but he instead has an 18.00 ERA after a two-out, two-run single. “When I do a lot of lessons back home, that’s actually how I throw,” Anna said. “Just a nice little flick in there. That kind of reminded me, when I was pitching, that’s exactly how I do it back home. It was pretty easy throwing strikes and stuff like that, but it’s not fun when I’m out there.”
· McCann said he never thought there was something physically wrong with Nova until that one pitch in the fifth inning. Obviously Nova was being knocked around, but McCann thought it was a matter of command, not a matter of diminished stuff. “It’s location,” McCann said. “He was up in the zone. His pitches were up.”
· This was the first time since September 6, 2012 against Baltimore that the Yankees allowed as many as five home runs in a game (they allowed six home runs in that Orioles game). Last time they allowed five home runs against the Rays was August 12, 2011 at Yankee Stadium. Since the start of 2011, the Rays have outhomered the Yankees head-to-head 77-48.
· Four home runs allowed was a career-high for Nova. He’d allowed three home runs in a game three times, most recently against the Angels in 2012. This snapped a streak of 26 consecutive starts in which he’d allowed no more than one home run, which was the second-longest such active streak in the American League because Anibal Sanchez’s 36 straight.
· After beating David Price on Thursday, there was actually some hope that the Yankees might get through this weekend on a good note. Now they need a win tomorrow, with a spot starter, just to salvage a series split. “You’d love to, especially going into a day off,” Girardi said. “And then you’re going into Boston for another series. You’re playing within your division. You’d love to right the ship. The good thing is tonight’s game only counts as one. Even though it was pretty lopsided and it was ugly, but it only counts as one.”
· Final word might as well go to Anna: “I wasn’t surprised (about being picked to pitch). He was like, ‘Just don’t throw too hard. Try to get it down the plate.’ So I went in there and let them hit it. It’s kind of tough. When you see me in there, it’s not a good day. We’ve got to regroup tomorrow and get back at it.”
Associated Press photos