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
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.”
• 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
Nova off to shaky start • 04.08.14
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.
Yankees postgame: Nova super again • 07.11.13
“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.
Yankees postgame: Nova deserves old job back • 07.05.13
There’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.
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.
Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day • 06.23.13
The Old-Timers were brought out for the intros, nearly 50 of them. El Duque is among the first-time Old-Timers here. Orlando Hernandez is living in Miami, playing a lot of golf and spending time with his family, and he has a baseball academy for kids.
“It’s a big day for me,” he said.
His best Yankees memory?
“For me, everything is a good memory,” Hernandez said. “When you play for the Yankees, everything is good.”
As usual, there was a long sustained ovation, appropriately, for Bernie Williams. Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out last, driven in a cart from a gate in the center-field fence, waving along the way. Berra is 88 and Ford is 84.
After the Old-Timers’ game, Ivan Nova will take the ball in the real game, back from Triple-A to make the spot start. Joe Girardi indicated it has yet to be decided if Nova is staying.
“Obviously when you have a taste of this life, you don’t want to be in the minor leagues,” Girardi said. “This is the place where every player dreams about being. So you have to figure out a way to put yourself in a situation where they can’t consider sending me down. The trick is not getting here. The trick is staying here.”
Thomas Neal was sent down to make room for Nova.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Ivan Nova really hasn’t had too many good moments since the first half of last season, but the 26-year-old righty was one of the bright lights on an otherwise dark night for the home team at Yankee Stadium Wednesday.
He was working in the long-lost game against the Mets, entering for the fifth with the Yankees trailing 8-1. He allowed just one run and five hits with six strikeouts and only one walk across the final five innings of the 9-4 loss.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes and I was aggressive,” Nova said. “It’s a good one.”
In the eighth, he struck out the side, getting Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and Ruben Tejada swinging.
“The curveball was really good,” Nova said. “Once I get ahead, I go with my curveball. That’s my strikeout pitch.”
Nova knows he has to prove that he’s worthy of being put back in the rotation after posting a 6.48 ERA over four starts and then spending April 27 through May 23 on the DL with triceps inflammation and a back problem. He pitched into and out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th inning and earned the win last Saturday at Tampa Bay in his first relief outing after returning. This second outing brought his ERA down from 6.11 to 5.16.
“I’m really excited about the way I’m pitching,” Nova said. “The way I pitched today, I’m pretty happy with myself.”
It would certainly be a boost for the Yankees if he can pitch like this consistently and regain the form when he went 16-4 as a rookie in 2011 or 10-3 in the first half last year.
Also, here’s the link to my story on last night’s game. The Yankees have scored just nine runs in the four-game losing streak. Here are updates on Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. And I spoke with Lyle Overbay and he’s loving his time here and wants to stay no matter what the role after Teixeira’s return.
Photo by The Associated Press
Yankees postgame: More injuries • 04.27.13
The Yankees certainly aren’t having any luck in the injury department. They keep dropping. Add Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli to the list.
Nova left with pain around the right elbow area. Joe Girardi was still waiting for the MRI results after the game. He was under the impression the problem was in the triceps connecting to the elbow. Nova complained of a little stiffness after the second inning, but he wanted to try to go in the third. After he hit the first batter and gave up a single to the second, he was done.
“We went out there and asked him; he said he wasn’t OK,” Girardi said.
Cervelli only lasted five pitches. Leadoff batter Rajai Davis fouled a ball off the back of Cervelli’s right hand. Surgery is set for Saturday. The catcher will be out at least six weeks.
“It’s disappointing, and I know it’s real disappointing to him because of all he’s been through to get to this point,” Girardi said.
Girardi said he’ll play the catching situation by ear with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, coming up now from Triple-A. Romine was batting .333 with a homer and four RBI in 14 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Stewart said the 24-year-old righty hitter has “got a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of getting experience up here.”
Phelps would seem to be the logical choice to replace Nova, but Girardi said he wanted to wait a few days before announcing anything. Phelps had a 6.23 ERA in five outings before the game. He said he had struggled with the mentality of coming out of the bullpen, that he has been a starter basically his whole career. He said he has been better in these longer outings.
And he was good in this one, four innings, one run, two hits, nine Ks. The strikeout total was not only a career high. It was the most by a Yankees reliever since Jay Howell fanned nine over 4 2/3 in 1983. Phelps is the first Yankees pitcher to strike out at least nine in four innings or less in the Live Ball Era.
Despite all the injuries, the Yankees keep winning. They’re 13-9 overall, and 12-5 since April 7.
At the postgame press conference, Girardi expressed his happiness over what this team has achieved to date.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Girardi said. “It’s part of life. I’m sure everyone in here can attest that life doesn’t go exactly the way we want it to sometimes. But when you’re able to accomplish things and go out and continue to win games, it’s very satisfying. I’m proud of what these guys have done so far. We’ll keep fighting and we’ll keep finding ways.”
Toronto, meanwhile, has found ways to go 9-15, probably the biggest disappointment in baseball so far after all its acquisitions.
“I’d say that we’re just not playing good enough to win right now,” manager John Gibbons said.
Ivan Nova has a power arm and he’s only 26, but at some point the Yankees’ patience is going to have to run out if he doesn’t start showing some consistency again and if a viable alternative emerges. By the way, Chien-Ming Wang is 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA after two starts at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“I’m not looking to make a change,” Joe Girardi said. “Our organization isn’t looking to make a change. We want to get guys going.”
When Nova steps on the mound tonight against the Blue Jays, he will bring along a 6.14 ERA and a 1-1 record constructed over three starts. He was 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA over 11 post-All-Star-break starts last year after going 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 18 pre-break starts and 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011. Girardi isn’t questioning now if Nova will ever be the same.
“I believe in my heart that he has the ability to do that, to get back to that,” Girardi said. “So I’m not at that point. I don’t really have a date that I would be at that point, because I believe in our guys and I believe in him. I’ve seen him do it. I’ve seen him be dominant at times. We just have to find the formula to get him back there.”
Girardi emphasized that Wang was signed during spring training for depth. The 33-year-old righty has been through some major injuries since his great years for the Yankees. He gave up three runs, only one of them earned, and four hits over 6 2/3 in a loss to Columbus Thursday after allowing no runs and six hits over 5 1/3 in a win over Syracuse in his first start last Saturday.
“I’d probably take it seriously when I hear reports that are glowing reports that he’s throwing the ball really well,” Girardi said. “I don’t think you can make too much out of two starts. I think you have to see how a guy responds start after start after start, going every fifth day. But we’ve all seen him pitch at a very high level. If he can get back to close to that, he becomes a viable option for us.”
Kevin Youkilis is still not a viable option to be in the starting lineup. This will be his sixth straight game sitting at the start because of lower back tightness.
“He’s better,” Girardi said. “He’s still not quite there. We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”
It’s getting to the point where the Yankees could think about the DL if the progress stalls.
“It’s been a week now,” Girardi said. “So I think you look and see where he’s at tomorrow and then you make a decision what you’re going to do and when you think you’re going to get him back.
“They don’t think it’s an issue where he needs a test. Keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow.”