This early in spring everybody is working on something different, so it’s often best to ask wide-open questions about a pitcher’s performance and see what they were trying to accomplish. To that end, one of the first questions to Ivan Nova this afternoon was what pleased him most about his performance and Nova smiled.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m happy with everything.”
Fair enough. Nova looked excellent in his first start of the spring, retiring all six hitters he faced on four groundballs and two strikeouts. Joe Girardi was particularly pleased with how Nova kept the Phillies hitters on the ground. “That’s what we want from him,” he said. “He’s young and he’s growing into a major-league pitcher.”
My feeling is that the best-case scenario for the Yankees is to see Freddy Garcia and Nova win the two starter spots, but it’s also clear that no one is going to be handed anything. The Yankees have been down that road before and Nova knows he’ll have to earn his place. This was, obviously, a strong beginning.
“I’m just paying attention to what I’m doing,” Nova said. “I don’t worry about (the other pitchers). I worry about myself.”
• Update on Andrew Brackman: He played catch today, reported no issues. Will play catch again tomorrow then take a day off. Earliest he’ll be back on a mound, then, is Wednesday. Ronnie Belliard will be out a week or so with his calf injury, according to Bryan Hoch. That certainly won’t help his chances at winning a spot.
• Sergio Mitre did well after Nova (he actually got the win in the 7-3 victory) and he’ll probably pitch once more in relief (likely Wednesday) before getting a start to call his own. Of course, Mitre said he doesn’t care when he pitches as long as he pitches well and is happy to be competing for a job for a second straight year. “Its pretty much the same amount of guys that were competing for one spot last year,” he said, “so just lick your chops, hopefully get the job and make the decision a little more difficult for them.”
• I’ll have more on Dellin Betances and Jesus Montero later but – no surprise – Girardi was pleased with Betances’ three-strikeout inning. He also said Montero looks significantly more comfortable behind the plate than he did a year ago.
• Um … Jorge Vazquez? Two games, two home runs for the non-roster infielder. “If he hits a home run every day, I’m sure he’ll get the Grapefruit (League) MVP,” Girardi said. Beyond that, no guarantees though. I still bet Eric Chavez breaks camp with the Yankees as a bench infielder.
• Nice day for Brett Gardner, who had a double, two walks and scored twice. Curtis Granderson hit his first home run of the spring and Jorge Posada had a RBI double. Not as nice day for Adam Warren, who gave up a hit, a run and two walks in 1 1/3 innings of relief.
* That’s an AP shot of Granderson and Posada from today.