Mancuso: Nova Return Gave Yankees Needed Boost

Ivan Nova had a sleepless Tuesday night knowing in a few hours he would be making his season debut Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. The New York Yankees right-hander was anxious to get the ball again after a 14-month recovery and rehab stint from Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The wait was over and Nova was a boost the Yankees needed. More so, because the Yankees top three in the rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia had three consecutive bad starts, Nova had to be a stopper and he was as New York took the finale of a three game series with a 10-2 win over the lowly Philadelphia Phillies.

And it was important for Nova to prove that his comeback was complete. Just as important was the Yankees getting a win and preventing the Phillies from getting a three-game sweep in the Bronx.

“Sinker was really  good and the curve,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi about Nova. The manager said everything was good and that included the command and how Nova kept his pace.  It was Nova’s first Major League appearance since April 19th of last year at Tampa Bay, and the final numbers showed he was ready:

He retired eight of the first nine batters faced, 19 of his first 22, tossed 6.2 innings, allowed three hits, two walks, had one strikeout and allowed no-runs.

The last number, no runs was a change of pace because over the past three games the Yankees starters and bullpen allowed 34 runs to the Phillies, a team that scores the second fewest runs in baseball. There was no doubt that Nova is what the Yankees needed as they embarked on their two city road trip, with four games at Houston and three against the Los Angeles Angels.

Girardi never had his doubts about Nova. “He’s pitched well in our rotation the last few years,” he said. “We missed him the last 14-months.”

And Nova is what the Yankees need now, especially when it appears that Sabathia is no longer pitching like an ace, there are questions about a Tanaka elbow and then there is the inconsistency of Pineda.

Until what Nova did on the mound Wednesday afternoon. the lone reliable Yankees starter has been Adam Warren who got a win over the Detroit Tigers last Friday night, and it will probably mean he returns to the bullpen unless Girardi decides to go with a six-man rotation.

The command from Nova was nice to see, and the talk was how hard the 28-year old worked hard to get back.

“It was more than expected,” Nova said about his return performance in the Bronx. He was asked if this was more special than his debut with the Yankees, and his first start in 2010.

“This was more,” he said, “Because I worked through rehab.” It was 14-months and constantly working with the rehab process down in Tampa Florida, but starting a season on the sidelines and anxious to get back made the process easier for Nova, who according to Girardi has always been instrumental in the Yankees pitching rotation.

Said Nova, who was thrilled to be back and contributing to his team,”I think that’s one of the best things, not only to come back, but to do it in front of the Yankees fans. It’s amazing the way they treated me today, so I’m really happy.”  When his day was over after throwing 92 pitches, the 45,877 in the matinee crowd gave Nova a standing ovation and he responded by tipping his cap. It was a happy return and the outing Nova, the Yankees and their fans needed. Girardi had said the pitch limit for this first start would be no more than 95 pitches.

Nova added, “ When I was walking to the mound, I didn’t believe it had been 14 months.  I was able to keep calm and try to do my best out there. Think positive the whole time. I was ready to go.”
But five days ago, in a final rehab start at Triple -A Scranton, Nova was ineffective and the curve ball, this according to a longtime scout, was not breaking as he allowed five earned runs, and seven hits in seven innings. There was discussion of possibly moving back his return and having one or two more rehab stints at Scranton.
The schedule is favorable for Nova to be here now and contribute, and Girardi commented that works in his favor to build up more.
“Thing is, he is healthy and sound,” Girardi said.  “He’s not thrown a lot of innings this year  so its not like you’re asking him to throw 200 innings.”  And the ability to throw strikes and get fly ball outs showed that the command was there.
And there was that pace that Nova had, something that impressed Girardi and his teammates who were more than happy to see him back on the mound.
“Not a whole lot works him up but given the circumstances and the year off he had, it would be easy to be a little too aggressive out there,” said John Ryan Murphy the catcher who saw the calm and comfort Nova had behind the plate.
“Early in the game,” Murphy said, “we just wanted to get rolling and get him some outs under his belt and we did that. He got comfortable there and kept his nerves calm and did a great job.”
And for the Yankees it was what they needed as they gained a game on Tampa Bay in the tight AL East race for first place in late June.

Comment: Twitter@Ring786  [email protected] Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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