You Never Nova

Listening to Yankees fans gnash their teeth at the state of their rotation over the course of the winter has been, at worst, entertaining. After both Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett completely exhausted all their good will among the Bronx Faithful and Andy Pettitte retired, the remaining options are quite uninspiring.

Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are among the obese men battling for the opportunity to start games for the most storied franchise in the history of whatever. As an observer of the A.L. East this struck me as odd – what about Ivan Nova?

My exposure to Nova is, I will admit, limited. He made a few starts down the stretch in 2010, most notably the Jose Bautista Death Glare game. Though he offended a nation by buzzing the home run king’s tower, Nova acquitted himself quite nicely that night, surrendering 2 runs (one being a massive Bautista bomb) in 5 and a third innings, striking out three and walking only one. He coaxed more ground balls than flies and certainly didn’t look out of place.

I saw no reason Nova couldn’t step in and make the Yankees rotation as the fifth starter, missing a turn here and there if things went pear-shaped. Based on his performance this spring, Ivan Nova agrees that Ivan Nova might have a shot at making the Yankees rotation.

Nova threw six no-hit innings at the Orioles last night, powered mainly by a slider he all but scrapped after that fateful start in Toronto. His new catcher Jussell Martin offered some high praise for both his new pitch and Nova’s chances to make the squad.

“He impressed me, and I hope he impressed himself,” Martin said. “It’s hard to have a much better outing than that.”

Martin added that the Orioles seemed uncomfortable in the box against Nova, which is no surprise, considering even Martin did not know how good Nova’s slider could be.

“I found out his slider’s a much better pitch than what I’ve heard and what I thought it was,” Martin said. “He doesn’t have to throw it for strikes and he’ll get swings on it.”

Nova doesn’t have the finest minor league pedigree other than a willingness to throw strikes. Compared to some of the other tubby gopherballers the Yankees are considering, I’d be very surprised if Ivan Nova wasn’t making starts for the Yankees early on in 2011. Until they trade for [insert name of expensive potential free agent pitcher here] in mid June, that is.

Hat tip to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times Bats blog. Read it now while it is still free!