Ivan Nova admitted that he wasn’t exactly caught off guard. Just a few minutes before Joe Girardi announced the decision to the media, Girardi told Nova that it would be David Phelps — not Nova himself — making the start tomorrow. Nova knew such a decision was a possibility.
“Of course,” Nova said. “The way I was pitching, yeah. They were expecting more from me.”
Nova has a 7.05 ERA since the All-Star break, a complete change from last year’s second half when he emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate and a potential rotation fixture for the Yankees. Nova said the problem has been obvious — “No command,” he said — and so now he’ll move to the bullpen, unsure when he’ll pitch again.
“This is a game where you have to be productive on a consistent basis,” Girardi said. “This kid has done a lot of good things for us. Let’s not forget he won 16 games last year, 12 games this year and we still have him in our plans. Right now, he’s just struggling a little bit.”
Of course, the decision cuts two ways. It speaks to the disappointment in Nova, but it also speaks to the confidence in Phelps who’s been a real discovery this season.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of people back home, my parents, my wife,” Phelps said. “We haven’t played a stress-free game since I’ve been back, since like July 10. It’s been coming down the wire the the entire season so far, so nothing’s going to change. … I want to go out there and pitch. I want to pitch in big games, and they don’t get a whole lot bigger than down the stretch in a pennant race.”
• Mark Teixeira said he’s confident that his strained calf is better today than it was when he tried to come back three weeks ago. “That’s why I’m playing,” Teixeira said. “It was a really good week in Tampa, very productive. We accomplished everything that we wanted to accomplish.”
• Teixeira said he played in two regular games against Yankees minor leaguers plus a simulated game. That gave him a chance to test the calf through the most common in-game situations — making plays at first base, running hard out of the box, running the bases — but he’s still going to try to be cautious. “Probably just subconsciously I will,” he said. “Hopefully there’s no issues where I have to take it to another level. I really only have a couple of levels. Speed isn’t really my game, but if I do need to leg out a double or score on a single from second base, that will be a good test for it.”
• No thought of DHing today. Teixeira believes playing first base will help him keep the calf loose.
• Teixeira said he does not feel like he’s rushing back simply because of the standings. “I would want to come back and get my timing down anyway just for the playoffs,” he said. “Even if we had a big league right now, I would probably want to test it out anyway.”
• Although Girardi is ready to put Phelps in the rotation in place of Ivan Nova, he’s not ready to push Phelps ahead of Phil Hughes. Girardi made it clear that Hughes will be a part of the postseason rotation. “We look at Hughesy as one of the starters for us,” Girardi said. “That’s our expectation there.”
• Hal Steinbrenner briefly held court in the hallway outside the Yankees clubhouse today. There were maybe a dozen people there, and I only caught the tail end of it when he once again said he plans to cut payroll to stay below the luxury tax. “You are talking about a 10 percent reduction in payroll,” Steinbrenner said. “I don’t see that as an outrageous concept. I never have.”
• Steinbrenner was asked whether jobs are on the line if the Yankees don’t win the division. He said it’s not something he’s thinking about right now.
• Girardi said he has not conisdered whether CC Sabathia would start a potential wild card game on Friday. Sabathia would be starting on three days rest. “Let me worry about these three before I have to make that decision,” Girardi said. “We have people lined up to make starts. We gotta just see where we’re at.”
• Phelps said he’s basically treating that relief appearance on Friday as a bullpen. He’ll throw flat ground today and feels like he’ll be fine for tomorrow. “I’m a week out of my last start, so (the pitch limit) can’t be that far off from 95 to 100,” Phelps said.
Associated Press photos