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Postgame notes: Martin impressed with Nova’s outing

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Nothing especially impressive about Ivan Nova’s pitching line this afternoon. Facing Triple-A hitters, Nova allowed three runs through 7.1 innings. He struck out five and walked one. All three runs came near the end of the outing, long after the media — and manager Joe Girardi — had left for the big league stadium.

So what to make of such an outing?

“Today was a good day for him,” Russell Martin said. “There was one homer hit, but it was a fly ball that was kind of wind-aided. It ended up barely scraping over the fence, but besides that, his pitches were there. That’s what I wanted to see from him. He hadn’t put it all together (this spring). He’d have three out of four pitches, but he hadn’t had four yet in a game. Today was one of those games where he had everything.”

Nova’s had kind of a strange spring, and it looks like today’s game was part of the trend. There have been stretches — several innings at a time — when he’s been outstanding, but it seems each game includes an inning or two when he’s been knocked around. On the whole, he’s been better than his 6.86 ERA suggests, and Martin’s words suggest today’s start was better than three runs against minor leaguers would suggest.

“I think you have to look at everything (this spring),” Girardi said. “But you also have to look at his body of work last year too. You can get caught up on judging people in spring training, and sometimes that judgment is not always true to what you see in the regular season, so I think you have to look at what he did last season as well.”

A focus on last season certainly works in Nova’s favor.

“Before the game today, I told him I wanted to see his focus,” Martin said. “Just sharpen up the focus a little bit. … He’s been progressing. He’s been getting more and more consistent as we go along. I think he’s going to have a great year; that’s my personal opinion. He went above expectations last year with what he did, so he’s got maybe a little bit more pressure on him to try to do that again. If he keeps the same attitude, that’s what I recognized from him last year the most – his intensity on the mound. He’s a guy that wants the ball and never backs down. He wants to stay out there that extra inning. That’s what I want to see from Nova.”

[3]• Change of plans for D.J. Mitchell. After he pitched tonight, Mitchell went to the bullpen to get his pitch count up to 75. He will no longer pitch again on Saturday. Girardi said the decision was made during the game when the Yankees decided they’d rather let Mitchell get stretched out than test him on short rest. Girardi said it changes nothing about Mitchell’s chances of making the big league roster. “Not a bit,” Girardi said. “Because if (Mitchell, Phelps or Warren) were to go with us, it would be more of a long guy than back-to-back.”

• Curtis Granderson came through tonight’s game “great,” Girardi said. Nick Swisher also came through today’s five at-bats at the minor league complex with no problem. Depending on how he feels tomorrow Swisher might DH tomorrow’s big league game, play right field in tomorrow’s big league game or take another turn at the minor league complex.

• Eduardo Nunez came off the field a little awkward, but Girardi said he checked with Nunez and Nunez said he was fine. Nunez didn’t seem bothered when he was walking around the clubhouse.

• Raul Ibanez has four hits in his past four games, and he would have had five hits — and three home runs — if not for Jason Heyward robbing him yesterday. “I’ve been feeling better the last four, five days and trying to build momentum,” Ibanez said.

• Girardi said the only real difference for Ibanez is that he’s “hitting the ball,” and Ibanez said it’s strictly a matter of timing. He’s gotten it back through some intense sessions with Kevin Long. “The only thing I know how to do is just keep working until you find it,” Ibanez said.

• David Phelps allowed seven hits through five innings in his start tonight. He walked none and struck out four, including three huge strikeouts to end the fifth inning. With runners at second and third, Phelps got Nick Markakis with a slider, Adam Jones with a curveball and Matt Wieters looking at a fastball. “To be able to get through those guys he got was pretty good,” Girardi said.

• Mariano Rivera extended his scoreless spring training innings streak to 28 innings, a streak that goes back to 2008. Sources say he’ll make the team.

• Granderson singled in his return to the lineup. … Mark Teixeira’s double and Ibanez’s home run were the Yankees only extra-base hits. … Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Bill Hall and Nunez also had hits in the 4-3 loss. Nunez also stole a bag. … Rodriguez and Derek Jeter each made errors. Bad throw by Jeter, bad hop past Rodriguez. … Boone Logan faced and retired two batters.

Associated Press photo