After delivering the Yankees best start of the spring, Ivan Nova stood in the clubhouse this afternoon and talked a lot about confidence, adjustments and expectations. And this is the story he told.
“It’s like Larry (Rothschild) told me the other day,” Nova said. “We were throwing a bullpen and he said, ‘What are we going to work on?’ I told him, ‘I just want to keep the ball down.’ He said, ‘Wow. I remember when I used to watch you and you’d say, I don’t know.’ Because I was a thrower. In the past, he would say, ‘What are we going to work on?’ I would say, ‘I don’t know. You tell me.’ Now I have the confidence to tell Larry, ‘I want to work on this. I want to work on that.’ I feel good with the way this is going so far.”
This is the guy who was shipped to the minor leagues last June, then won American League Pitcher of the Month for August. He’s shown the potential for starts like this one — 6.1 innings, 2 hits, no runs, no walks, 5 strikeouts — but he’s never put together a full season of consistent, high-end results. He’s always had reason to look over his shoulder.
“He was up the first four or five pitches in the game,” Girardi said this afternoon, after watching Nova’s latest. “(He) made a great adjustment, got it down, then he was really, really good. … You have to make adjustments, because it’s not always going to be lights out when you go out there and you have to figure it out. I thought that was a real positive sign.”
Another positive sign? Nova’s now up to 21 strikeouts with just two walks this spring. Brian McCann, who’s seeing him first-hand for the first time, has been impressed by his ability to locate two-seamers down in the zone, and his ability to mix offspeed pitches for strikes.
“It’s location,” McCann said. “That’s pitching. If you don’t locate your pitches, you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to have fastball command, and if you’re behind in the count, you have to be able to make tough strikes. The more times you keep the hitter out of a predictable count with the fastball, the better off you’re going to be. … He can throw get-me-over (curveballs) for strikes, and then we he gets ahead, he can go kind of anywhere he wants. And for me, his changeup is a really good pitch too, and he’s working that in righty-on-righty. I think that’s going to be a really good pitch too.”
Nova’s 27, wears braces, and insists that he not be called a veteran. He also insists that he’s not taking for granted the fact he has a spot in the rotation (which he clearly does). When he pitches like he did today, Nova smiles and says he’s happy, and he’s able to truly evaluate what he did well what he needs to improve.
“You always want to have high expectations, even better than what you expect,” Nova said. “Every time you go out there, you expect more out of yourself. Pitching the way I did last year in the second half and knowing what I did, I think I’m old enough to know what I’m doing. I’ve just got to keep my focus. I know it’s hard sometimes. Anything can happen. The way I look, it’s 35 starts that I want. I just think of it like 35 days I’ve got to be 100 percent, trying to have my best start every time out. It’s just 35 days for me.”
Associated Press photos