Yankees look to Nova today/morning paper • 09.15.12
Ivan Nova returns to the rotation today against the Rays, and the Yankees need him to be the guy he was in the first half of the season, considering the airtight state of this playoff race.
“Ivan, when he’s 100 percent, he can be one of the best guys out there,” Curtis Granderson said.
Nova is excited at the thought of stepping on the mound to start for the first time since Aug. 21.
“Mucho. A lot. Very excited,” Nova said. “I feel good.”
He went on the DL from Aug. 23 until Sept. 5 to recover from rotator cuff inflammation. Nova is 11-7 with a 4.92 ERA over 25 starts. He was 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA at the All-Star break. But he’s 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in eight starts since. Nova hasn’t blamed the slump on the shoulder problems. Joe Girardi has talked about faulty fastball command.
Now Nova takes over for Freddy Garcia.
“I have a chance to do better than what I was doing in the past,” Nova said. “I’m looking forward to it. I just want to go out there and compete and do my best all the time.”
He said today “is going to be like a new start” for him.
During his downtime, Nova said he only worked on getting his shoulder well.
“I had my stuff,” Nova said. “I don’t think I have anything mechanical that I have to worry about.”
CC Sabathia has caused a few worries this season. Last night’s performance again wasn’t good enough. But Derek Jeter delivered two hits while playing on his bad ankle, passing Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time hits list with the first one. You’re welcome to check out my linked stories today for LoHud.com and The Journal News.
Same story for the Yankees, different day. Their RISP work is a problem again.
They live and die with the homer. Two solo homers and one two-run shot weren’t enough. They showed up an AL-least .218 with runners in scoring position and then went 0 for 4 in that category in the 6-4 loss to the Mets, blowing two-out opportunities in the first and second against Jon Niese and then a first-and-second, one-out opportunity against Frank Francisco in the ninth.
“You keep putting them on, eventually it’s going to change,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s all I can tell you. We are who we are. There are basketball clubs that are built around 3-point shooting and when they don’t make their 3s, they don’t win. We’re a home-run hitting club. If we hit two- and three-run homers, we usually win games.”
It didn’t help that Andy Pettitte dropped the Yankees into a 5-0 hole in the first, the most runs he had allowed in that inning since 2001.
“If you do your job, they’re not going to send you down,” he said. “I mean, I was doing my job last year and they sent me down, but I don’t say that’s the case right now. I think if you stay focused and do your job, I don’t think I have to worry about it.”
Nova makes his final spring start this afternoon against the Mets. Although the Yankees still have Michael Pineda coming back from shoulder tendinitis and Andy Pettitte coming back from a year-long retirement, Nova is confident his spot in the rotatoin is secure as long as he pitches well.
“I think there are two ways to look at it,” Joe Girardi said. “If you don’t want someone to take your job, don’t let them. (That’s) number one. And it’s like that trade deadline time, where you think you’re getting a player, you think you’re getting a player, then you don’t get it. Just take care of what’s in front of you that day. We can’t necessarily count on what we’re going to get. I know what we have, and that’s the message. Just go out and do your job.”
Of course, Nova was 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA when he was crowded out of the rotation last season.
“Last year is last year,” he said. “I can’t think about last year. We’re in a different year. It’s a new year and you’ve got to think of everything bad that happened last year and you take it away and start this new year with your head clear. … Once (Pineda)* is here, they’re going to find some way to have everybody. If they can’t have everybody, then something is going to happen, but right now I want him to be back as soon as possible.”
* Just to clarify before people get upset, Nova had been t
Associated Press photo
At his best, Ivan Nova was unhitable today, and that’s what he and the Yankees seemed to take out of this outing.
“The command that I had — my fastball, my curveball, slider, especially the changeup today — was unbelievable,” Nova said. “Every time, here in spring training, when you’re trying to work on something, and you have a good day like today – everything was working – you’ve got to take it. You’ve got to be positive on that.”
Nova retired the first 12 batters he faced, then he closed his outing with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. He needed just 76 pitches, 58 strikes, to get through seven. In the middle, there was a two-run home run in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth, but the Yankees came away yet again impressed by an outing that was better than the final pitching line might suggest. Nova’s had a couple of those this spring.
“Seven innings, five of them were really, really excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “He had the two that he struggled a little bit, but I was happy with what he did.”
• Not too far away in Clearwater, Hiroki Kuroda also finished with a pretty good game. He went 5.2 innings allowing one run on six hits. Kuroda got all the way up to 89 pitches in only his fourth start. Nova was making his fifth start and said he expects to start two more before breaking camp.
• The Yankees starters have performed well since Andy Pettitte signed, but Nova said that’s more about time than timing. “I think right now, everybody is in better shape than two weeks ago,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of good results. Everybody is going to pitch good because everybody is feeling better. Everybody has more command, and I know for sure that pitches are working better than two weeks ago. For me, I expect the guys to pitch well too. I know it’s a competition, but you need not one man, I need my teammates to pitch good and have a good spring.”
• Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 in his return to the lineup. He had a first-inning single and grounded into a double play in the third inning. “I said, ‘You were actually pretty smart today,’” Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t try to kill himself running to first, which was smart.”
• Girardi said there were no other injury updates. He said after the game that he still had not heard any results from MRI and CT scan on Joba Chamberlain’s dislocated ankle.
• Jeter on Chamberlain’s injury: “You feel extremely bad for him. He’s worked hard to get his arm back in shape. It seemed as though he was ahead of schedule on that, and that’s because he worked extremely hard at it. Then to have something like this, a fluke accident, you feel extremely bad for him.”
• Mariano Rivera pitched another hitless inning and has yet to allow a hit in five outings this spring. Rafael Soriano also pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen today.
• New father David Phelps pitched in relief of Kuroda in Clearwater and 3.1 innings allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
• Eduardo Nunez had three hits agianst the Twins today, and Robinson Cano had three hits against the Phillies. … Francisco Cervelli had two hits to raise his average to .214. … Ramiro Pena was 1-for-1 with a solo homer today. … Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez, Brandon Laird, Chris Dickersona and Dewayne Wise had one hit appiece. … Mason Williams also singled today. He’s 2-for-2 in his pair of appearances in big league camp.
• Doug Bernier had another two-hit game in another start at shortstop. It’s still hard to imagine him making this team, but he’s really had a terrific spring. His batting average is up to .385.
• Speaking of good springs with no obvious roster spot: Justin Maxwell was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. His average is up to .444 this spring.
• Despite Bobby Valentine’s criticism, Girardi offered no apologies for not going into extra innings yesterday. “I’m going to worry about our guys,” Girardi said. Apparently much of Valentine’s criticism was based on the fact he had a pitcher — Clayton Mortensen — who he wanted to get in the game. Girardi said he would have been fine with playing just the top of the 10th if Valentine had asked. “That would have been acceptable to me,” Girardi said. “But there was no communication, and usually there is. And it’s not like this is something new. There’s a lot of tied ballgames in spring training that end in the ninth inning.”
• Mortensen, by the way, was optioned out of big league camp today.
Associated Press photos
Ivan Nova allowed five earned runs on seven hits through four innings. His evaluation of the night?
“Unbelievable,” he said. “I think I had all I needed today.”
“We just had bad communication in the first inning,” Nova said. “That affected my game too much, but I feel really good today. … I was shaking too much. That slowed my game. We threw a couple bad pitches, like the curveball for a homer and the slider for the other homer. In that situation, you have to move the hitter, and we didn’t do it. Sometimes you want to throw that pitch and he doesn’t call that pitch. You start shaking and you get out of what you want to do. I think that happened out there.”
Nova retired seven of the last eight batters he faced, and really didn’t look too bad giving up a run on two singles in the second inning. It was the first inning that caused him problems, and he said that started when Gustavo Molina called for a curveball with two on against Adam Jones. Nova tried to shake off the pitch, but Molina went back to it and Jones clubbed a three-run homer to center field. Two batters later, Matt Wieters homered on a slider.
“(Molina) didn’t see me,” Nova said. “He called a curveball again and he hit a homer. That’s the game. Sometimes you struggle a little, but I have to step up and call him before I throw the pitch. I didn’t. … I was out of my game right there because I gave up the first home run. After that inning, we picked it up and we finished strong. That’s a good thing. I made that adjustment and that’s something positive that I can take out of the game today.”
Joe Girardi agreed with the assessment and said it’s up to Nova to take charge in those situations. As Girardi put it, “he’s the one with the ball.”
“That’s something you have to learn from,” Girardi said. “When you make a pitch, you’d better have conviction. I don’t care if you have to shake 17 times, you better have conviction.”
• X-rays were negative on Robinson Cano’s left hand. He was hit by a pitch near his pinkie, in that sort of meaty part on the side of the hand. Sounds like the Yankees don’t expect it to be an issue. “We’ll see how he is Tuesday, but I don’t imagine it will be long,” Girardi said.
• Nova has said several times this spring that he’s been happy with his offspeed pitches, and today was no different. “I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve been working on my changeup, I’ve been working on my curveball for a first-pitch strike. I was working on my slider and it was good today the last couple of times so you’ve got to be happy.”
• Girardi said this would be a start to really begin evaluating Nova, and he seemed happy overall. “The first two innings he had no rhythm,” Girardi said. “The last two innings he had great rhythm, he was working quick and he looked very good to me. He just couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm his first two innings and then he found it.”
• Raul Ibanez had another hitless game, going 0-for-3 to drop his average to .065. “I got under a couple of balls,” he said. “But I got them into the air, and I think when I’m making outs in the air it’s much better for me personally than when I’m making outs on the ground like I was earlier in the spring. Obviously, you don’t want to make any outs. You want to hit line drives, and you want to hit balls into the gaps, but today I felt better. The last couple of days I’ve felt better.”
• Center field prospect Mason Williams made his first appearance in a big league spring training game. He pinch ran for Mark Teixeira in the sixth inning and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second base. He was caught stealing by Matt Wieters who threw out three different base runners, one of them a pickoff of Dewayne Wise at second.
• Williams got his first big league spring at bat in the eighth and singled on the first pitch he saw. “I’ll remember that until the last day,” Williams said. “It was an awesome experience. I didn’t smile while I was on the bases, but in my head I was smiling a lot.”
• Eduardo Nunez had his hand wrapped after the game but said he feels fine. His timing is a little off, he said, and his hands feel a little heavy from all the extra work he’s been doing lately, but the pain is gone. This was his second game in a row after sitting out almost two weeks.
• George Kontos made his spring debut with a hitless eighth inning. He struckout the last batter he faced.
• Clay Rapada came out of the bullpen to face a lefty with runners at the corners and two outs. He got a groundball to end the inning. Rapada’s looked pretty sharp this spring, and he’s legitimately tough on left-handers.
• He’s pretty far under the radar, but Dewayne Wise is having a nice camp. He went 2-for-2 today to raise his spring average to .474. He also stole a base (though he was picked off another time).
• Brett Gardner got his fourth stolen base of the spring. He also had an outfield assist… Mark Teixeira had his first double… Ronnier Mustelier got a surprise at-bat and singled… Nunez’s infield single was the Yankees other hit… D.J. Mitchell allowed his first run of the spring but also finished with three strikeouts in two innings.
• Hiroki Kuroda was not in camp today. Girardi said he gave him the day off, told him didn’t have to come in.
Associated Press photo
“I’ve just got to keep pitching the way I pitch, and I don’t think it’s going to be any problem,” Nova said. “… You know what, I get more excited. I feel more excited. I know you’ve got to do more and try your best of what you’ve been doing. One way or the other, that’s going to help you. That’s what I feel.”
Even as a rookie who was shipped to the minor leagues last season, Nova always showed considerable confidence. He showed the same thing when I covered him in Triple-A, and to be honest, it initially came across as arrogance. At least, that’s the way I took it when first I covered him, but that’s shifted. Nova believes in himself and trusts himself, and perhaps that’s why he was never particularly worried after a couple of erratic starts earlier this spring.
Tonight, Nova makes his fourth spring start, and so the evaluation period has really kicked into gear.
“It’s the fourth or fifth start, they’re going to get spread out a lot more and start to use all their pitches,” Joe Girardi said. “If you’re having a hard time getting one pitch going in the first couple of innings you’ll have a little more time to get it going.”
Confident or not, Nova approaches this with something to proove.
“I always say that I’m in competition,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I win 20 games, I’m going to be in competition. I feel that way.”
Here’s the lineup Nova is facing tonight:
Endy Chavez LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis DH
Adam Jones CF
Chris Davis 1B
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 3B
Ryan Flaherty RF
Robert Andino 2B
Associated Press photo
Ivan Nova never seemed especially worried, but after two sloppy starts this spring, the time was right for him to finally have a good one. Tonight he finally found the strike zone and delivered four scoreless innings. He struck out the final two big league hitters he faced, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on an inside fastball and getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a slider.
“I just want to have good stuff,” Nova said. “Not only the good stuff, but when you don’t have the best stuff, you’ve got to pitch. That’s something I did today compared to what I did in Toronto the other day. I had the good stuff but I didn’t pitch. I think in Toronto I had (better) stuff than I had today … but I pitched, and that’s the difference.”
Nova has shown good fastball velocity and pretty good offspeed pitches all spring, the problem has been fastball command. Today, he had the command as well. He threw 55 pitches, 35 for strikes, and he consistently worked ahead in the count.
“I was more aggressive, let the hitters hit the ball,” Nova said. “I’ve got eight people behind me. You’ve got to pitch to contact, you’ve got to throw strikes. … I’m a really confident guy. It doesn’t matter if I pitch good or not, you’ve got to keep your head up (and) you’ve got to keep working. I knew that I would pitch good one day. You’ve got to look forward to the next start, and today I’m going to enjoy it, and get it behind me and wait for the next start.”
• Mariano Rivera laughed when asked if he’s ready for the season to begin. “Tomorrow,” he said. Essentially Rivera got four outs today, pitching around an error for a scoreless fifth inning. “You have to work, you know?” he said. “It’s not just go in there and do whatever you want, you have to work on your pitches and work that strike zone.”
• Rivera’s next outing will likely come either Friday or Saturday. At this point, it seems like he might pitch a little more than his usually eight or nine spring innings. “That’s alright as long as we get eight, nine,” Rivera said. “It will be enough.”
• Dave Robertson ran on an eliptical machine today and could do some light jogging on a treadmill tomorrow. Joe Girardi said there’s a chance Robertson could be on a mound by the weekend.
• The plan is for Eduardo Nunez to take the next three days off. Girardi said Nunez should need only a week to 10 days to be ready for the regular season. He wouldn’t need nearly as much time as Dave Robertson. “You would think that you could get him enough playing time,” Girardi said. “The great thing about minor-league games is you can get him 10 at-bats in one day if you wanted to. You can’t have a pitcher throw 10 innings in one day if they’re a one-inning guy. It’s different.”
• George Kontos came through today’s batting practice just fine, in fact, he was happy with his stuff and doesn’t feel like he lost much during his time off. He’s scheduled to get in a game on Friday.
• Asked which bullpen candidates have made a strong impression, Girardi seemed to be thinking along an obvious theme. “Our lefties have thrown the ball pretty decent,” he said. “(Clay) Rapada has thrown the ball pretty well, Juan (Cedeno) has thrown the ball pretty well, Cesar (Cabral) has thrown the ball pretty well. We think we’ve got some options if we decide to take another lefty. Time will tell.”
• Speaking of which: Another hitless inning for Boone Logan who’s looked really sharp this spring. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning against Aviles, Pedroia and Ellsbury. The only lefty he faced was Ellsbury, who struck out.
• Another nice outing for David Phelps, who took the loss despite five strikeouts in 2.2 innings. The only run of the game came on a single to right field, where Zoilo Almonte misplayed the ball, after which David Adams made a bad relay throw turning the single into an unearned run. It was a 1-0 Red Sox win because of that play.
• Rapada came in to face one batter, a lefty, and got him to ground out.
• Four hits for the Yankees: Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, Corban Joseph and Andruw Jones. All of them were singles.
• Girardi wouldn’t give a specific timetable for Dan Burawa’s return from a torn oblique, but it’s going to be much more than a couple of days. “It could be a while,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure. He hurt his side. I haven’t gotten a timetable. A lot of times ribcage injuries can be tough.”
• Suzyn Waldman was profiled on the Baseball Hall of Fame website. The HOF is celebrating Women’s History Month.
• I’m sure I’ll do a full post on this tomorrow, but the Yankees announced today that individual game tickets will first be made available to the public through a MasterCard pre-on-sale online at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster phone from March 22 at 10:00 a.m. until March 25 at 10:00 p.m. For those using other accepted methods of payment, the general public on-sale will begin on Tuesday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster.
Associated Press photos
Thursday notes: “It’s got to be something” • 03.08.12
Ivan Nova knows the meeting is coming. At some point on Friday, Larry Rothschild is going to pull him in front of a video screen and show him the footage of today’s start in Dunedin.
“I know for sure tomorrow we’re going to talk about it,” Nova said.
Nova’s fastball hit 95 mph. He was happy with his slider and happy with his changeup, but much like his previous start against the Phillies, Nova’s command was unreliable at best. He fell behind often against the Blue Jays, and it was a 2-0 pitch that J.P. Arencibia hit for a home run. Hunter Pence homered on a 3-0 pitch from Nova five days ago.
“I throw, for me, perfect bullpens,” Nova said. “Once I get out there, sometimes, I guess I do too much. I think that’s what happened, maybe. I’ve got to figure it out… Sometimes you can be open too much or too quick. The first inning was really good, I wasn’t pushing my body or anything like that. The second and third inning (were bad). It’s got to be something.”
Nova said he doesn’t feel out of shape, and he’s encouraged that his velocity suggests his arm strength is where it needs to be. He just needs to get his mechanics ironed out. Joe Girardi said he’s still a long way from making a judgment about Nova.
“These guys are just getting ready to compete and getting their arm strength,” Girardi said. “We saw some velocity out of him today. We saw some 95s today. They’re still going through all of that.”
• The Yankees were on the verge of a second consecutive shutout when Colin Curtis hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to leave the Yankees with a 6-1 loss. Ramiro Pena was the only Yankee with two hit, and other than the Curtis home run, Pena’s double was the team’s only extra-base hit. Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Brandon Laird, Justin Maxwell and Doug Bernier each singled in the game.
• David Phelps let one of Nova’s runners scored on a passed ball by Francisco Cervelli, but otherwise, Phelps pitched 2.1 innings allowing one hit, two walks and a strikeout. I didn’t think he was especially sharp, but he settled in a little bit.
• If he’s going to have a chance of making this team — and the Yankees seem to be giving him a legitimate look — Cesar Cabral is going to have to retire lefties. Giving up a home run to lefty Travis Snider didn’t exactly help his cause this afternoon. It also didn’t help that lefty Eric Thames singled off him later in the inning.
• Raul Ibanez looked fine in right field. He only had two chances to make a play and one of those was a ground ball. The other was a fly ball near the foul line, and Ibanez made a running catch for the out. Not the hardest play in the world, but he made it with no problem. “You have to take balls, and see more balls hit out there,” Ibanez said. “Today was a great thing to be able to go out there, spend a little time out there, and catch one. Angle off the bat is good.”
• Dellin Betances and Dan Burawa each pitched around some trouble to leave runners on base and pitch scoreless seventh and eighth innings. It was a better-than-last-time appearance for Betances.
• As you can imagine, everyone was pretty focused on Dave Robertson after the game. Most conversations centered on his injured foot, but Girardi really didn’t have many answers. “There’s always something in every camp,” Girardi said. “It seems like there’s something freaky that happens.”
Associated Press photos
Ivan Nova is going through the process, and he’s willing to go through the process. That doesn’t mean he has to like the process.
“I just want to get ready as quick as possible,” he said after today’s two-inning spring debut. “I don’t want to start the season trying to be ready. I want to get ready here as quick as possible so I can be ready to go from the beginning of the year. Today, I came to work on a couple of my pitches, especially my changeup. I threw a couple good ones, a couple swing-and-miss ones. That’s the good thing. When you come and you want to work on a pitch and you throw a couple and get a couple swing-and-miss, that’s good. We have to keep working.”
Joe Girardi said Nova had “three pretty good pitches” today, and he specifically mentioned the changeup as a good one. His only blemish was a two-run home run by Hunter Pence. It was a home run setup by an error, and it came on a 3-0 pitch that Nova was just trying to get over the plate, not expecting Pence to swing.
Curtis Granderson admitted that the wind helped his homer get over the fence. Nova said that wind was a non-factor in Pence’s shot.
“He got a really good swing,” Nova said. “I don’t know about wind, but he got really good contact. When I heard the contact, I said, ‘That ball is gone.’”
It was the only hit Nova allowed. He struck out two and threw away a pickoff, but ultimately, not a bad first outing. It was the next step in the process.
“I’m fighting for a spot right now,” Nova said. “I’m going to keep working like that and pitch like that, like I’m fighting for a spot. I can get a really good result based on that.”
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “It’s just too early” • 03.03.12
Joe Girardi said this week that Ivan Nova is not guaranteed a rotation spot. So can he start earning his spot today in Clearwater?
“It’s just too early,” Girardi said. “I want to see Nova go out and throw strikes.”
Girardi said he told the pitchers early this spring that their first few outings are strictly preparation. He told them to get ready, stay healthy and prove themselves in the last few weeks of the spring schedule. Nova has two innings today, and it’s more about getting his work in than making an impression.
• Raul Ibanez has his second straight start at DH, and oddly enough, each start has come against a left-handed starter (the Phillies are starting Cole Hamels today). Girardi said he doesn’t get “caught up” in lefty-righty matchups this early in spring training. Even though Ibanez was signed to hit against right-handers, Girardi just wants him to get some at-bats right now.
• Andruw Jones, who isn’t making today’s trip and didn’t get an at-bat yesterday, will start in the outfield tomorrow. Of course, that’s going to be against a right-handed starter.
• Phil Hughes just finished throwing live batting practice — or a sim game, whatever you want to call it — and now Adam Miller is doing the same. Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli are the hitters. Larry Rothschild and Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred are watching.
• CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are throwing sides today in Tampa.
• The position players not making the trip will stay behind to go through regular drills. There’s a specific note that Jones and Curtis will get some work in left field. The hitting groups in Tampa:
Group 1: Robinson Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones
Group 2: Colin Curtis, Gustavo Molina, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
• Tomorrow, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner and Brett Marshall are each throwing bullpens. Hiroki Kuroda will throw a sim game to Brandon Laird and Zoilo Almonte.
• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor, Chase Whitley, D.J. Mitchell, Juan Cedeno and Clay Rapada. Only the first six are actually expected to pitch.
• Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Chris Dickerson, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Cole Garner, DH Justin Maxwell
UPDATE, 10:52 a.m.: The Phillies are going with Jimmy Rollins plus some outfield regulars.
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Hunter Pence RF
Jim Thome DH
Ty Wigginton 3B
John Mayberry Jr. 1B
Domonic Brown LF
Erik Kratz C
Michael Martinez 2B