On his way up the ladder, Ivan Nova was never the biggest name in the Yankees minor league system. Not even close.
At one point he was such a low priority that he was lost — and quickly returned — in the Rule 5 draft. At this time last year, if you’d been told the Yankees would have a Rookie of the Year candidate, the better bet might have been Jesus Montero.
But Nova kept getting better, and then he kept winning games. Crowded out of the big league rotation in July, he returned from Triple-A and won his next seven starts. He finished the season 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and the No. 2 spot in the postseason rotation.
“I wasn’t thinking at the beginning I was going to be the second starter in the playoffs,” Nova said before making his postseason debut. “I always want to win. It’s what I like. Like I said one time, anytime I got the lead, I have to protect that lead, and I have to go for the win.”
When the Rookie of the Year is announced this afternoon, Nova might not be the winner — Jeremy Hellickson seems to be the favorite in a fairly wide-open field — but Nova will certainly be in the mix. And he belongs in the mix.
“I really think this game is not about (being a) prospect,” Nova said. “It’s all about doing your job.”
Associated Press photo