The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Sorting through Yankees arbitration and non-tender candidates10.21.14

Michael Pineda

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors announced it’s typically reliable salary predictions for the seven Yankees who are arbitration eligible this winter. The MLBTR predictions aren’t fool-proof, and they aren’t necessarily exact, but over time we’ve learned that they tend to provide a pretty solid expectation for what an individual player stands to earn through offseason negotiations.

So with these figures in mind, which arbitration-eligible Yankees are most likely to be non-tendered this winter?

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

No logical chance of a non-tender. Last year’s elbow injury cost the Yankees a full season from one of their top young starting pitchers, but it also made him significantly less expensive in his second year of arbitration. Despite the injury, the Yankees will gladly sign up for $3.3 million on a pitcher who could be at least a strong No. 3-4 starter with the potential to go on a run of near-ace-like production for several weeks at a time. The injury might keep them from considering a multi-year deal at this point, but one year at this price is surely a no-brainer.

Shawn KelleySHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

A $3.5-million commitment was enough for the Yankees to cut ties with Matt Thornton back in August, so the possibility of a $2.5-million deal with Kelley shouldn’t be completely dismissed. It’s not pocket change. That said, Kelley’s been a nice find for the Yankees bullpen. A back injury slowed him down for a while this year, but his key numbers — strikeout rate, walk rate, WHIP, etc. — were actually better in 2014 than in 2013. He’s a pretty reliable strikeout pitcher, and a one-year commitment to a reliever like this seems just about perfect at this point. The Yankees have some solid arms on the way, and one more year of Kelley might perfectly bridge the gap. No compelling reason to non-tender him.

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

Pretty big salary jump for a guy who’s made 13 big league starts since 2011. But that’s the nature of the business with a player who’s coming back from a long-term injury and a bunch of time on the 60-day disabled list. Ultimately, a little more than $2 million should be a bargain as long as Pineda stays healthy. And if he doesn’t, it probably means another chance for a similar low-risk, one-year contract next winter. Again, this one is a no-brainer. Pineda will certainly be back, and even with the injury concern and time missed, there’s no reason to balk at $2.1 million for a pitcher with Pineda’s proven talent.

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

Probably the strongest non-tender candidate of the bunch. Obviously the Yankees like Rogers’ arm — and at times they got terrific production out of him during his brief Yankees tenure last season — but he’s ultimately a 29-year-old with a 1.56 career WHIP, 5.54 career ERA, and a large enough sample size to suggest those numbers are a reasonable expectation for next year. Even if $1.9 million isn’t a ton of money, a one-year deal with Rogers probably isn’t the best way to spend it. Not with better options — or at least similar options — already in the system. The 40-man is going to be tight, money could be tight, and it’s probably not be worth using either a roster spot or a couple million bucks to retain Rogers. If the Yankees had less pitching depth, the situation might be different.

David PhelpsDAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

It seems Phelps just made it past the cutoff for early arbitration eligibility. I’m sure the Yankees would like one more year at the minimum, but I’m sure they also realize that Phelps is a really nice fit for them in the immediate future. He’s proven capable of filling any role, and this Yankees pitching staff should have a need for a long man who can either slide into the rotation or move into a late-inning role if necessary. That’s Phelps. As he more thoroughly defines himself one way or the other — and as his arbitration price goes up with each passing offseason — the Yankees will have a choice to make about how much he’s worth, but at slightly more than a million dollars, Phelps is still a good fit at a cheap price.

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

You know, Cervelli has really developed into a nice catcher. He’s played like a high-end backup or a low-end (with upside) starter. And $1.1 million isn’t too much to pay for a guy like that. Even as the Yankees surely need to make a decision behind the plate — makes sense to make a move with either Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine — it would be a waste to simply non-tender Cervelli. Surely there’s trade value there, and even if the Yankees decide to cut him in spring training, arbitration-eligible players are never given guaranteed contracts, so the Yankees could move on a fraction of the price. Certainly worth signing a new contract, even if it’s also worth immediately trying to trade him.

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Could be a non-tender candidate despite having a pretty nice year. Huff walks quite a few batters, and he doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but he had a 1.31 WHIP and a 1.85 ERA during his stint with the Yankees (granted, with a much higher FIP and xFIP). Ultimately, he was fine. Nothing about his season suggests he’s not worth a modest raise to $700,000. That said, the Yankees always treated him like a last-man in the bullpen, and his career splits don’t suggest a reliable lefty specialist. Solid year, fairly cheap price, but could be non-tendered just to open a roster spot for someone else.

Associated Press photo

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Salary predictions for arbitration-eligible Yankees10.20.14

Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi

These numbers are far from official, but the crew at MLB Trade Rumors — Matt Swartz in particular — has a strong record when it comes to predicting salaries for arbitration eligible players. Here’s what they’re predicting for this year’s arb-eligible Yankees:

IVAN NOVA
This year: $3.3 million
Next year prediction: $3.3 million

SHAWN KELLEY
This year: $1.765 million
Next year prediction: $2.5 million

MICHAEL PINEDA
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $2.1 million

ESMIL ROGERS
This year: $1.85 million
Next year prediction: $1.9 million

DAVID PHELPS
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $1.3 million

FRANCISCO CERVELLI
This year: $700,000
Next year prediction: $1.1 million

DAVID HUFF
This year: roughly $500,000 (slightly more than the minimum)
Next year prediction: $700,000

Associated Press photo

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Yankees could find rotation depth on their own roster10.17.14

CC Sabathia

In trying to break down the state of the Yankees organization, it’s hard to look at pitchers the same way we look at position players. The development is different. The roles are different. The number of jobs available is different.  It’s just … different. In trying to look at the state of the Yankees rotation, it seems best to start by looking directly at the current 40-man roster (before free agency) where no less than 12 rotation possibilities are already in place. Given the Yankees injury concerns, they’re going to need some rotation depth heading into next season. They just might be able to find that depth while staying in house.

THE OBVIOUS INJURY CONCERNS

Masahiro TanakaMasahiro Tanaka – His elbow might be a ticking time bomb, but he’s also an ace-caliber pitcher. The Yankees know Tanaka might need Tommy John surgery at any moment, but they’ve done what they can to postpone that procedure, and a couple of healthy starts at the end of the year were enough to build some cautious optimism. Tanaka should be the Yankees No. 1 starter. But that depends largely on a tiny ligament in his elbow.

Michael Pineda – The Yankees finally got to see the guy they acquired years ago, and they liked what they saw. Sure, the pine tar situation was embarrassing, and there was yet another shoulder setback, but when Pineda was on the mound, he was terrific. He’s far removed from surgery, but that doesn’t mean health concerns don’t linger. Would be a strong No. 2, but again, that’s only if he stays healthy.

CC Sabathia – This could be the year his run of Opening Day starts come to an end. That said, if he gets to spring training healthy and reasonably effective, he might still get the nod in the opener if only because he’s still very clearly the leader of the staff (and this is a clubhouse that could be searching to leadership next season). Whether Sabathia will be anything more than a symbolic choice, though, remains to be seen. If he can at least be a reliable back-of-the-rotation arm, that would be helpful. There’s clearly a new ace in town.

Ivan Nova – Almost certainly will not be ready to break camp with the Yankees, but initial word about Nova’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been nothing but positive. Still a long way to go, but Nova made it through the initial rehab steps with no problem. Tommy John has become a relatively routine procedure these days, but some pitchers say it takes close to two years to truly feel 100 percent. Timing suggests Nova could be back in the New York around early May. But how effective will he be?

THE REPLACEMENT STARTERS

Shane GreeneDavid Phelps – When the Yankees rotation went through a series of injuries last season, Vidal Nuno was technically the first replacement starter, but Phelps wasn’t far behind. He was solid, then he got knocked around one game, then he looked really good for about a month and a half before his upper elbow became a problem. Phelps should be arbitration eligible this season, and he might once again come to camp as a rotation candidate who could easily slip into a bullpen role.

Shane Greene – Phelps’ chances of winning a spot in the rotation surely took a hit when Greene showed up. Having made a strong impression in spring training, and having struggled in his brief big league debut, Greene wound up pitching like a rotation mainstay through the second half of the season. He had a 3.24 ERA before a six-run mess in his final start. Given the Nova injury, Greene could legitimately come to camp as a rotation favorite.

Chase Whitley – A career minor league reliever until the very end of 2013, Whitley moved to the Triple-A rotation, improved his breaking ball and got his first big league call-up as a replacement starter. He was a bit streaky — very good at first, pretty good at the end, plenty of rough outings in the middle — but Whitley joins the mix as a swing man who could start or work in long relief. Could also go to Triple-A as rotation insurance.

THE MINOR LEAGUERS

Bryan MitchellManny Banuelos – Once considered to be among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Banuelos needed Tommy John surgery, which slowed his ascent considerably. He missed all of 2013 and put up inconsistent results this year in Double-A and Triple-A. Banuelos has an awfully good arm, though, and being further removed from surgery surely helps his cause heading into his age-24 season.

Bryan Mitchell – For the longest time, Mitchell’s reputation was far better than his results. The Yankees regularly touted his potential, and that was enough to put him on the 40-man roster last winter despite a 5.12 ERA in High-A the year before. More so-so results followed in Double-A this season, but the Yankees challenged Mitchell with a Triple-A promotion and things seemed to take off. He got 11 innings in the big leagues and looked solid. Probably no more than rotation depth to open the season, but he’s among the most advanced young starters in the system.

Matt Tracy/Nik Turley – These guys aren’t on the current 40-man roster, but they stand out as Rule 5 eligible lefties had at least 60 Triple-A innings with mid-4.00 ERAs this season. Neither one was great next season, and there’s a chance both will be left exposed to the Rule 5 this winter — guys like Zach Nuding, Jairo Heredia and Caleb Cotham are in vaguely similar situations — but they’re potential rotation depth options who could be on the 40-man eventually (or could be added next year if necessary). Turley’s been on the 40-man before, and he in particular was putting up better numbers at the end of the year.

THE SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS

Hiroki KurodaHiroki Kuroda – Of all the Yankees soon-to-be free agents, none has a future quite as uncertain as Kuroda. He turns 40 in February, and despite yet again providing some much-needed stability for the Yankees rotation, there seems to be a solid chance Kuroda will retire this winter. He could also come back, pitch elsewhere, or decide to pitch one last season in Japan. Kuroda left all options open at the end of the year.

Brandon McCarthy — Aside from Dave Robertson, there might not be an outgoing free agent who’s more interesting for the Yankees. McCarthy throws strikes and gets ground balls, he thrived during his three-month stint with the Yankees, and he seems like a strong fit in this unusual market. At the right price, McCarthy could be a strong choice for additional rotation depth (though he comes with injury concerns of his own).

Chris Capuano – Would be easy to dismiss Capuano as a non-factor going forward, and maybe that’s exactly what he’ll be. Two things to consider, though: 1. Capuano really was a pretty good No. 5 starter during his time with the Yankees, and he has experience as a bullpen lefty, which the Yankees don’t really have at the moment. Probably least like to return of anyone on this list, but he did his job during his time with the team.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “I should be good to go for next season”09.22.14

Masahiro Tanaka

Yesterday was the big test for Masahiro Tanaka, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that the Yankees got a final grade on his long-awaited return to the rotation. It was important not only that he pitch well, but that he feel good the day after.

“He was all smiles today, which was good,” Joe Girardi said. “He was doing his normal routine that he would do after any other start, so it’s all good news.”

Yesterday’s game was encouraging. So was today’s catch. Tanaka remains on track to start again on Saturday. These last few steps are all about testing Tanaka’s elbow as much as possible heading into the offseason. There’s no way to be 100 percent certain his ligament will hold up, the more steps he gets through, the better. Today was another small one.

“Just the fact that I was able to throw yesterday and the fact I’m feeling good today (is encouraging),” Tanaka said. “Having the start coming up on Saturday, if I come out from that strong, then obviously that’s a positive. From where I am right now, I should be able to have a good offseason of training that I want to do, and I should be good to go for next season.”

CC Sabathia also played catch today — his first official throwing session since knee surgery — which was another small but encouraging step for a Yankees rotation facing quite a bit of uncertainty heading into this offseason.

“And I think you can add another guy in there; Nova’s rehab has went extremely well,” Girardi said. “He has had zero setbacks and has progressed very, very well. Obviously CC has done well after this new knee surgery and we’re pleased about that. These guys play a very important role. Pitching is a huge part and when you have pitching you can stay in most games and have an opportunity to win them. When you get distance from your starters, your bullpen stays more rested and you can use them a little more different. It would be big for us.”

Mark Teixeira, Jonathan Schoop• Mark Teixeira got a third cortisone injection for his sore right wrist. He got it yesterday and said this injection was in a slightly different spot — “The first two shots were kind of inside the tendon sheath and this is outside the tendon sheath,” he said — and the hope is that he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Why get a third injection at this point? “You never want to end the season hurt,” he said. “You want to finish the season. Every game you can’t play, you make a lot out of it, but realistically, to take a couple days off and get it taken care of, play the last five or six games whatever it might be — it’s worth it.”

• Can Teixeira ever be a 150-game player again? “As many games as hopefully I can,” he said. “I never want to say I am going to play 150 games-plus again because, who knows? You never know what is going to happen. I know my wrist is going to be healthier next year. It’s going to be stronger. That’s all I can say because I’ll have that full offseason of working out and strengthening and not necessarily rehabbing.”

• Sabathia said he wants to build up to throwing a bullpen, then he’ll shut down and have a relatively normal offseason. He did 20 throws at 60 feet today. “We’re trying not to make it that much (different from a normal offseason),” Sabathia said. “I’ll come up here a few times a week, but as far as workouts and stuff, it should be a normal winter.”

• Maybe we already knew this and I just forgot about it, but Sabathia said today that he got a second stem-cell injection last month. “I haven’t (had an knee pain), not since I went back out there for (another) stem cell,” Sabathia said. “I think that was the end of August. It feels great. I haven’t had any problems in the workouts.”

• First time playing catch today? “I’ve kinda been throwing the football a little bit, and throwing at home,” Sabathia said. “So it feels good to come out here and not have to hide and throw.”

• The Yankees claimed OF Eury Perez off waivers and opened a roster spot by designating Josh Outman. “We acquired a young center fielder, left fielder, plays all over, from the Washington Nationals,” Girardi said. “With some of the nicked up position players we had, we felt it was probably in our best interest to (DFA) a pitcher. Outman had done a pretty good job for us. He’s a situational lefty, which are kind of difficult to use this time of year because every time you send a lefty to face a lefty, they put a right hander up because they have so many players. It becomes more difficult to use them.”

• Girardi said Carlos Beltran’s elbow is still bothering him. No update on Jacoby Ellsbury’s hamstring.

Associated Press photos

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Nova beginning the long road back from Tommy John09.04.14

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova has no idea when he’ll be back in a game for the Yankees. He doesn’t know when he’ll be allowed to throw a breaking ball or get on a mound or even fully unleash a fastball off flat ground. He only knows that he’s been playing catch for about two weeks now — extremely light tosses, often with a member of the training staff — and that his surgically repaired right elbow feels even better than he expected.

“It’s a really good feeling,” Nova said. “A little night, but no pain. That’s a good thing.”

Nova’s just now taking the first steps back from Tommy John surgery. He said he was so nervous about those first few throws that he didn’t even want to bend his arm. He kind of slung the ball like his arm was a catapult, all shoulder rotation with no elbow involvement at all. Nova wasn’t simply worried his elbow would hurt. He was worried the ligament would snap again. The training staff had to assure him over and over again that the ligament could handle it.

“They were working more on my mind than my arm,” Nova said.

So now Nova’s throwing a baseball the regular way again, but only 25 throws at a time and never at a long distance. A nice and easy round of catch, nothing more. Other pitchers who’ve had Tommy John warned him that some of those early throws would be completely off target, so he was ready for that when that happened.

“If I do a tryout like that, I’m not going to sign,” he joked.

Does Nova think he could be back early next season? Is mid-season more likely? Will he be able to do much in spring training?

“To be honest, I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I know once you get hurt, the rehab program is real, real slow. So I’m ready for that.”

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: “Real big innings; that was the difference”09.03.14

Derek Jeter

It was exactly one week ago that the Yankees had nine straight hits during a eight-run inning against David Price. Two days before that, they’d gotten to James Shields during a four-run inning in Kansas City. The day before that, they’d taken advantage of some White Sox mistakes to score four unearned runs in one key inning against Chris Sale.

One week ago, it seemed the Yankees offense was finally showing some life. Now it seems that those big innings were simply an exception to the rule, and certainly not a sign of things to come.

“Could be,” Joe Girardi said. “You hope not, but it could be.”

When the Yankees beat Price, they’d scored at least seven runs in three of four games. They haven’t had another seven-run game since then. In fact, they’ll start this game having scored a total of seven runs in their past three games.

“I haven’t noticed anything different about our approach,” Girardi said. “We had some big innings. Real big innings. That was the difference. We had a chance to have a big inning last night and it got kind of messed up. That has been the biggest difference.”

Focusing on the big innings of late last month is just the latest variation on a familiar theme of searching for ways to explain the Yankees offensive struggles. It’s possible to go up and down the lineup searching for individual problems — there are plenty of those, from Derek Jeter in the No. 2 spot to Mark Teixiera in the regular cleanup role, to the lack of production from the cut-loose veterans Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano — but at some point, covering this offense began to feel like banging your head against the wall. It’s just the same thing over and over again, and it’s rarely good or productive.

“We lost a ton of our rotation and I think people thought that we would just disappear when that happened, when you lose as much as we lost,” Girardi said. “But you know, guys stepped up and found a way. We thought that our offense would pick it up, and we would have a shot. And we still do have a shot. But I think maybe the more surprising thing has been how well the starters have done and how we’ve continued to struggle offensively.”

Martin Prado• Girardi indicated that Martin Prado will be completely shut down today, and it’s unlikely he’ll play tomorrow. The hamstring strain has been described as very mild, but it’s too early to know exactly how much time he’ll miss. “We’ll see tomorrow, but right now he’s down,” Girardi said. “Our hope is it won’t be too long. We’ll have to see.”

• The injury apparently occurred during on Prado’s third at-bat last night, after he hit that ball past Will Middlebrooks. When he made the turn (at first base), I think, is when he said he felt it,” Girardi said.

• Ivan Nova made 25 extremely light throws this afternoon. He’s been playing catch for about two weeks and said he’s encouraged by the way his elbow feels. He said it’s tight, but that’s not unusual. Nova said he actually feels better than he was expecting.

• For whatever reason, Girardi’s still not announcing a date that Masahiro Tanaka will throw a bullpen. It’s supposed to be this week, though. “I don’t have the exact date when he’s going to do it,” Girardi said. “He does feel better. Our doctor said he basically just had arm fatigue, and that’s not abnormal for a pitcher. He does feel better. He played long toss the other day and felt good, so hopefully it’s pretty soon.”

• Does bullpen usage change at all in September? “I still think I have to watch how I use them, the (number of) innings I use them, the multiple innings that I use them,” Girardi said. “Robby is not a guy that I would be concerned about, if he didn’t throw too many pitches, throwing three days in a row because he’s done it. But I think I still have to pay attention to it.”

• Here’s a shot in the dark, just to see if it leads anywhere: Is there something we’re missing with some of these hitters? Are some of these guys hurt and we just don’t know about it? “I think guys are banged up, but I think it’s normal this time of year,” Girardi said. “I don’t think anyone would use that as an excuse. You’ve played 130-or-so games. You’re going to be banged up. So I wouldn’t use that as an excuse.”

Associated Press photos

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Nova off to shaky start04.08.14

Ivan NovaSo what’s up with Ivan Nova?

He allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings in losing to the Orioles after walking five in 5 2/3 in his first start in Houston. Nova only gave up two runs in that game and was the winner, but in this game, he couldn’t minimize the damage and the Yankees ended up losing 14-5.

“I don’t feel good when you pitch that way with the good spring training that I had,” Nova said.  “It’s only the second time. I have plenty of time to fix it and get back to where I want to be.”

He had a problem with his curve, and his sinker was up. Nova said he needs to get his pitches down.

“I wouldn’t make too much out of two starts,” Joe Girardi said. “I know it’s glaring in the beginning. I know he’s more than capable of turning this around and being a big-time pitcher for us.”

There was a chance for Nova to get out of the first with no runs scored instead of three. But Derek Jeter couldn’t reach Delmon Young’s bouncing single for a double-play try.

“I know he tried the best to get the double play,” Nova said. “That’s the game.”

Despite struggling, Nova didn’t walk anyone. So Yankees starting pitchers haven’t walked a batter now in five straight games.

Francisco Cervelli got his first shot at first base. He admitted he missed one foul ball that he probably should have caught. But Girardi said he was OK with his work over there.

“He passed for me,” Girardi said.

So Cervelli could be another option vs. lefties with Mark Teixeira out.

Yangervis Solarte doubled twice, making the rookie third baseman the first player since 1900 with at least six doubles in the first seven games of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury went 3 for 4 and is 12 for his last 22 after starting 0 for 7.

Alfonso Soriano hit homer No. 1 on the season and No. 407 for his career, tying Duke Snider for 50th on the all-time list.

I’ll have more on Masahiro Tanaka’s Wednesday night Bronx debut in the morning.

Photo by The Associated Press.

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Yankees postgame: Nova super again07.11.13

Ivan NovaIvan Nova was brilliant in this 8-1 win over the Royals, one run and five hits allowed over eight, his third straight strong spot start.

“I don’t remember the last time I feel the way I feel,” Nova said. “I’m throwing strikes with all my pitches.”

David Phelps feels good again after his slight forearm strain and should be ready to come off the DL after the All-Star break. Michael Pineda is waiting in Triple-A for his shot. The Yankees are reportedly shopping Phil Hughes. Something will have to give soon.

“Having extra starters is a good problem to have,” Joe Girardi said.

Nova made an impression on Ned Yost.

“Nova was excellent,” the Kansas City manager said. “He had an outstanding fastball that he kept down and his curveball was probably the best we’ve seen all year.”

Girardi said the start “should build his confidence. Getting him back on track was really important to us.”

Girardi wouldn’t confirm Derek Jeter will be back playing for the Yankees Friday night barring any setback as YES’ Jack Curry reported.

“We’ll see where he’s at,” Girardi said.

Jeter may be a little rusty. The word from Moosic was that he looked shaky in the field Wednesday night. He was charged with a throwing error, leaving him at 1 for 9 with four walks over his four rehab games.

The Yankees who were actually in the Bronx were happy to score so many runs after those three straight home losses, all with only one run scored.

“I’ve said all along that we have to win a lot of close games,” Girardi said. “We’ve been pretty good at it. But it’s nice to win a game 8-1.”

The scheduled starters for Thursday afternoon’s series finale are Andy Pettitte and Ervin Santana.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yankees postgame: Nova deserves old job back07.05.13

Ivan NovaThere’s no room at the moment for Ivan Nova, and yet doesn’t it seem like it’s time to make room again in the rotation? He has been excellent since he has been back from the minors, especially in this 3-2 win over the Orioles, his first career complete game. And it came with just three hits and one walk allowed, plus 11 strikeouts.

Nova would seem to have more of an upside than David Phelps, especially if the 26-year-old righty has indeed found his old consistency that abandoned him a year ago.

The Yankees could give him a start again with just nine games to go until the All-Star break. Eventually, though, they may have to make a decision. Plus, they have such a short bench with 13 pitchers here.

Joe Girardi said: “I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but he’ll probably start again.”

Nova said he had everything working, including that mid-90s fastball, some changeups and again that great curveball.

“His curveball was about as good as I’ve seen a curveball from anyone,” Vernon Wells said.

Nova was told along the way by a couple of teammates that the Yankees were going to win this game, and he believed it, too.

“I never thought we were going to lose,” Nova said. “I was positive the whole night.”

It took Baltimore’s shaky closer to help shake out a couple of runs in the ninth. Jim Johnson blew his sixth save in 35 chances and dropped to 2-7. His ERA rose to 4.02. One of the two runs in the ninth was unearned thanks to Johnson’s error on Brett Gardner’s bunt. But David Adams helped as well, opening the ninth with a single. And Wells helped with his ground single to left to touch off the celebration.

The Yankees not only won their season-high-tying fifth straight despite struggling offensively again, but they snapped their five-game losing streak against the Orioles, improving to 4-6 against them.

“That team over there has had our number,” Wells said. “They’ve played well against us even in the games that we’ve won. … We were just able to come through late (tonight). But we need to win games like that. We haven’t done it enough. We were doing it early in the season. Hopefully we can get back to doing that.”

Hiroki Kuroda felt good after his bullpen session and will be slotted back into the rotation if his hip flexor feels the same Saturday.

Eduardo Nunez went 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in his rehab game with Trenton against Reading. Besides Derek Jeter and Michael Pineda being scheduled for rehab work Saturday night with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against visiting Lehigh Valley, Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for a rehab game Saturday night with Single-A Tampa against the Brevard County Manatees at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

Photo by The Associated Press.

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Yankees postgame: Nova throws an encouraging start06.23.13

Ivan NovaIvan Nova doesn’t want to go back to Triple-A. He made a statement why he shouldn’t have to in this 3-1 loss to the Rays.

The 26-year-old righty got called up for the spot start and left with two on and two outs in the seventh in a 1-1 game. He ended up being charged with three runs and seven hits. He struck seven, six with curves, walked three and hit two — both after he got the first two outs in the seventh.

“He was consistently throwing strikes,” Chris Stewart said. “… Repeating his mechanics has been a problem in the past, but for the most part he was good today.”

Asked if he pitched well enough to stay, Nova said, “I’ve got to say yes. Here is where you want to be.”

Joe Girardi was happy with the effort, too. Nova made three starts after being sent down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi didn’t want him languishing as a long man here. Nova sees himself as a starter, too.

Asked about whether Nova stays or goes back down, Girardi said, “I have no idea what we’re going to do.”

Perhaps this will turn up the pressure on Phil Hughes to start being more consistent. Hughes’ next start has been pushed back to Thursday against the Rangers at the Stadium. Girardi said it’s “to try to keep everyone closer to a regular turn (and) a couple of extra bullpen sessions for him.”

“This is a game where you have to prove yourself over and over,” Girardi said.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon raved about Nova.

“Their guy really settled in,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand why this guy struggles. I have never seen him bad. I don’t know — one of the best pitchers in the world as far as I’m concerned. He gets that hook over and he’s really tough on left-handers.”

Boone Logan gave up a two-run, bases-loaded single to James Loney that broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh, so 10 of Logan’s 28 inherited runners this season have scored.

Brett Gardner went 3 for 4, giving him at least one hit in 24 of his last 29 games and a .336 average over that stretch.

Zoilo Almonte started for Vernon Wells in left the last three games and went 6 for 10 with two doubles (both in this latest game), a homer and four RBI.

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 177 Comments →

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