Freddy Garcia gets his first start tomorrow, and Bartolo Colon will get a start in the coming day, but Ivan Nova is the guy who left spring training as the Yankees No. 4. He’s the young guy with some upside beyond simply holding down the fort for a month or two. Ideally, Nova is the guy to step up and show the Yankees something more than he showed tonight.
“I know I can pitch, and I can throw strikes,” Nova said. “This is just a bad moment that I have and I just have to keep my head up and keep working hard trying to go back to where I was in spring training… I can’t throw strikes with my fastball right now, and I depend a lot on my fastball. When I don’t have command, especially of my fastball, I don’t pitch too good when that happens.”
Command is what crushed Nova tonight. He made some good pitches in the early innings, but he got only one out and allowed four base runners — two walks, a hit and a hit batter — in the three-run fifth that made the difference. Granted, Dave Robertson’s wild pitches contributed to that inning, but the Yankees pitching in this game hinged on Nova, and for the second start in a row he lasted just 4.1 innings.
It was a start similar to some of last year’s Nova outings. He was OK for a while, but eventually the wheels fell off. Even if the result was the same, manager Joe Girardi said the cause was different.
“I didn’t think tonight was anything like what we saw last year,” Girardi said. “I think tonight was command. The free base runners that he gave up is what got him into trouble, and that’s not something he did a lot of last year.”
Nova was terrific in spring training, and he was pretty good in his season debut. Since then, he’s struggled. Maybe these are the natural ups and downs of a 24-year-old rookie, but the Yankees need him now.
“We do need to get some distance,” Girardi said. “It has to come from different starters. We have to get them all to where they can get there for us.”
Here’s Nova’s postgame interview.
“Impressed,” Girardi said. “He threw strikes. He threw strikes with all his pitches tonight.”
Pendleton got to New York around 6:15. He struck out the first batter he faced, then went on to pitch three hitless innings in a terrific big league debut. There’s a lot of pitching in this organization, and Pendleton’s hardly the biggest name, but he put himself on the radar last season and tonight showed why he was the choice to fill a long-relief role in the bullpen.
“I don’t know what I was envisioning,” Pendleton said. “I’ve got a wife and son and I was more flustered getting them setup and here. We’ve got a dog, getting him somewhere in Scranton to take care of him, probably all worked to my favor that I didn’t have an opportunity to think too much. I couldn’t have written it up any better than this other than I wish we had won. But if we were winning, I might not have pitched.”
• Three innings from Pendleton means he won’t be available for a while, but Girardi said Hector Noesi is available for 100 pitches out of the bullpen, so he doesn’t need to make a move. “I don’t have any plans of making a move right now,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees tied an American League record by grounding into six double plays, all of them against Rangers starter Matt Harrison. It’s a franchise record, and six different batters grounded into the double plays. “It was amazing to watch pressure get put on him, but he made all of his pitches down from his fastball to his slider to his changeup,” Curtis Granderson said.
• Speaking of Granderson, all three of his home runs this season are against left-handers. He said that’s a product of last year’s mechanical changes, which helps his timing against lefties. “Now it seems that, no matter what they happen to be doing, at least I’m down and ready to hit the baseball,” he said. “That’s it. It’s not going to go ahead and be positive all the time, but as long as I’m ready to hit the baseball I’ve got a chance.”
• Granderson hit a total of four home runs against left-handed pitchers last season.
• One of the walks and two of the wild pitches in that game-changing fifth inning were charged to Robertson. “You make some wild pitches, it just compounds the problem,” Girardi said.
• When the media got into the clubhouse several minutes after the game, Larry Rothschild was still at Nova’s locker. Nova said the message was one of confidence, telling him to keep his head up and keep working. “We just have to keep watching the video and find out something,” Nova said.
• Pendleton is following the little-used road that Dave Robertson took to New York: He’ll join the Yankees big league roster without having ever been invited to big league spring training.
• Pedro Feliciano was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Pendleton on the 40-man.
• For whatever it’s worth, Nova said the weather didn’t affect him.
• My old friend Mike Ashmore caught up with Kevin Millwood in Trenton, where Millwood is making a Double-A start on Sunday. “(The arm strength) still probably has a little ways to go,” Millwood said. “But it’s definitely closer than it was when I got here.”
Associated Press photos