In his spring debut, Ivan Nova had an obvious objective. It was obvious in his approach, obvious in his execution and obvious in his mind.
“Nobody has to tell me that I have to throw strikes,” Nova said. “It’s obvious. You have to throw strikes as a pitcher, attack the hitter. You don’t have to wait for someone to let you know or tell you what you have to do. I’m a grown man, so I’m going to do what I have to do in this game.”
Nova threw 27 pitches today; 22 of them were strikes. He gave the Yankees two scoreless innings, with one strikeout, one infield single and one strong first impression.
“Really good,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought his fastball command was really good. Really downhill. Pleased with where he was at his first start, and he needs to build on that.”
That fifth spot in the Yankees rotation is Nova’s to lose. There’s little doubt he has the stuff, the only question is his ability to use that stuff with consistency. He’s been very good in the big leagues. He’s also been very bad.
“(Last year) I wasn’t attacking the hitter like I did today,” Nova said. “… I feel really good. I’m concentrating on attacking the strike zone and I did it today. That’s what I have to do; attack the strike zone and let my teammates do the rest.”
Said catcher Chris Stewart: “It was just finding the right arm slot. He had such a long arm motion last year, it’s tough to repeat it if you’re not fully confident in it. This year, he’s a lot shorter so he can repeat it a lot easier and we saw the results today. … Hopefully, he’s the guy (the Yankees) saw two years ago. The one going out there with confidence every single day and not afraid of throwing strikes and daring people to try to hit them. We saw that a little bit last year. I kind of fell off at the end, but he’s got the stuff, obviously it’s just a matter of putting it together. If he can do what he did today, he’s going to be real good.”
• Girardi actually called reporters back into his office after today’s game because he’d forgotten to update us on the injuries in camp. He honestly didn’t seem concerned about either Boone Logan or Slade Heathcott, but I guess it’s far too early to know much about either one.
• I actually asked Logan just a couple of days ago how his arm was feeling, and he said it was fine. Girardi said the pain — pinpointed in the back of his elbow, in just one spot — only popped up yesterday. “Boonie was doing good and his elbow came up a little tender,” Girardi said. “That’s why he didn’t throw BP the other day. His MRI came up clean so we’ll probably just rest him a few days and get him back on the bump.”
• According to Girardi, Heathcott will be reevaluated in a “few days.” He had an MRI. “It came out clean,” Girardi said.
• Melky Mesa said it was earlier this week that he decided to skip the WBC. He said it’s 100 percent because of the opening in left field. It was clear from a short conversation that missing the opportunity to play for his country is tough for him, but he can’t pass up on this opportunity. “It’s better for me, I think,” Mesa said.
• For whatever it’s worth, Mesa asked me if I agreed with his decision. I said I did. He’s looked pretty good this spring, and that job seems legitimately wide open.
• Girardi on Mesa’s decision: “It’s a decision that he has to make, and he wants to be seen more. I respect that. I told him, ‘Whatever you do, I’ll respect what you do. If you want to play, you go play. If you want to play here, you play here.'”
• Stewart on the homer: “My goal is to help the team win any way I can, and I think I can do that better behind the plate right now. At the same time, I’m still trying to produce runs, because the more runs we score the better chance we have to win. … I happened to get a good pitch, put a good swing on it and it went out. That’s not what I’m going to try to do.”
• Nova said he didn’t throw any sliders today. He threw mostly fastballs — pretty standard for a first spring start — but he mixed in some curveballs and one changeup. Stewart said the changeup was a good one. Nova said he never worries about his curveball.
• In his second appearance of the spring, top relief prospect Mark Montgomery allowed a run on two hits and a walk. “He threw okay,” Girardi said. “His slider was a little bit below the zone. He gets the kid 0-2 and walks the first guy, which led to the run that he gave up, but he seemed to rebound a little bit after giving up the walk and base hit. I like the depth in his slider. He seemed to spot his fastball a little better at the end. Second outing, so it was okay.”
• Also the second outing for both David Aardsma and Clay Rapada, each of whom allowed a run on an extra-base hit and a sacrifice fly.
• Shawn Kelley made his Yankees debut with a scoreless, hitless, walkless inning. … Other than Chris Stewart’s home run, Tyler Austin had the Yankees only other extra-base hit. He doubled. Austin also drew a walk and had two RBI. … Dan Johnson made his second error of the spring. … Of all the players without a start, Francisco Rondon actually leads the Yankees with 4.1 innings pitched. He has yet to allow a run and has given up two hits and a walk. He’s struck out four, including two guys today.
• No overwhelming surprises among the early cuts. A lot of lower level starters who will have a much easier time getting innings at the minor league complex. Matt Daley is easy to overlook because he didn’t come up with the Yankees and he missed last season, but he has some big league time and looked good in his three appearances this spring. I’m sure there’s some disappointment in seeing 2012 draft picks Corey Black (one appearance) and Nick Goody (shut down with a sprained ankle) sent out so quickly.
• As he left the clubhouse — knowing he wouldn’t be back until after the WBC — Robinson Cano told Joba Chamberlain that, if Chamberlain pitches in the exhibition against the Dominican Republic next week, Cano would like a fastball right down the middle. I don’t think they ever came to an agreement that Chamberlain would actually give him one.
Associated Press photos