This afternoon, a group of four or five Yankees beat writers got on the elevator that leads down to the clubhouse level. Three Safeco Field employees were on the elevator, and they had a question.
Where did Ivan Nova come from?
They’d never heard of him, but they saw 15 wins next to his name and assumed they must have come with another club. He must have been an under-the-radar signing, or a non-blockbuster trade that’s worked out incredibly well. They were stunned to learn all 15 of those wins came in pinstripes.
“You see that he has matured a lot out there,” Joe Girardi said. “His last couple starts, he seemed to have some struggles with his breaking ball, so that’s something I think we need to get going tonight, because those are big pitches for him. He’s handled the situation really well, the way you would expect a veteran player to do. When he hasn’t had his best stuff, he’s found ways to get through six innings for us, which a lot of times you see veteran players do. He has grown up.”
Nova’s breaking pitches have been key, especially the emergence of his slider.
“We talk about getting at least one of them going,” Girardi said. “You may not have both of them going right away, but you have to get one of them going. It’s important.”
• Alex Rodriguez is not going to swing a bat until Friday in Toronto, but Girardi fully expects to have Rodriguez in the lineup that day. “I’ll probably put him in the lineup, watch him go through BP and then we’ll go from there,” he said.
• Girardi said he doesn’t necessarily expect to give Rodriguez more DH starts these last two weeks, but he might not play him Saturday’s day game after Friday’s night game. “I think he needs to get in the field and get in that kind of shape,” Girardi said. “…You know that you have to get him to where he can play three or four days in a row. I think that’s important, but I think your only concern is that he doesn’t have another setback.”
• Last night’s game gave Girardi confidence to use Nick Swisher in right field again tonight. “Last night kind of showed me that he was okay,” Girardi said. “If he would have come in today and say he didn’t feel good, I would have changed the lineup. But he didn’t.”
• With Jesus Montero getting regular DH starts against lefties, keeping Andruw Jones in the lineup has to come at the expense of one of the regular outfielders. “Will I do it against every lefty? I don’t know,” Girardi said. “But it seems like a chance to give each one of our lefties a break once in a while. It’s not going to get any easier after this off-day, that’s for sure. We play 14 games in 13 days. If I can give one of them a break, it keeps them fresh. Jonesy has played so well, it’s hard not to put him in there.”
• The Yankees upcoming rotation, shuffled so that CC Sabathia won’t have six days between starts:
Friday: CC Sabathia
Saturday: Bartolo Colon
Sunday: Freddy Garcia
Monday: Phil Hughes
• The Yankees will likely have to shuffle their rotation again to leave Sabathia lined up for Game 1 of the Division Series. “I’m not worried about that,” Girardi said. “We’ll worry about that when we get there.”
• Of course there was still some lingering talk about Mariano Rivera and his pursuit of Trevor Hoffman’s all-time saves record. “I think it takes most of the arguments away that he’s the greatest closer of all-time,” Girardi said. “I’m not taking anything away from Trevor Hoffman and all the guys, but I think you have to look at his postseason work, as well. Once he passes Trevor Hoffman, it’s hard to say he’s not.”
Associated Press photos