In 2011, Ivan Nova had a coming out for the New York Yankees going 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in 28 games, 27 of those starts and pitched fairly well in one postseason appearance. However, since that season Nova has not been very consistent posting ERAs of 5.02 and 5.16 over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Nova went down with some inflammation in his triceps earlier this year and essentially lost his rotation spot once he was ready to return.
Now, with the return of Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis Nova has found himself the odd man out and was optioned to Triple-A to make room for the returning corner infielders. Nova only appear in two games since coming off the disabled list, both relief appearances. His last appearance came against the New York Mets when he pitch five innings in relief and gave up only run while striking out six and only walking one but did allow five hits. He was hitting as high as 96 MPH on the radar gun which is a few ticks above his normal velocity of 91-93 MPH which was encouraging. However, Nova clearly wasn’t happy about being relegated to bullpen duty.
With his being optioned to Triple-A he will be able to get the innings in he wasn’t getting in New York. Given Nova’s increased velocity and the rotation crunch that the Yankees currently have with Andy Pettitte returning early next week from injury and Michael Pineda likely to start his 30-day rehab assignment soon there are not enough rotation spots to go around. The Yankees rotation depth chart also currently has David Phelps and Vidal Nuno ahead of Nova. Adam Warren might also be considered ahead of Nova if a rotation spot were to open up but Warren has been surprisingly good this year out of the bullpen and the Yankees might not want to lose that.
The Yankees might be wise to see what Nova has to offer out of the bullpen. The increased velocity was certainly intriguing and he could be a late-inning option. With Mariano Rivera retiring and Joba Chamberlain facing free agency the Yankees could be looking for help in the bullpen after this season. Next year, even if the Yankees have to replace Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, will have Nuno, Phelps, Warren and, not to be overlooked, Manny Banuelos returning from Tommy John surgery. Nova might be a much better option out of the bullpen moving forward, especially if the velocity he showed against the Mets was real.
Of course, the Yankees would also be wise to keep Nova stretched out given the rash of injuries that have hit the Yankees this season and making the transition from starter to reliever is a lot easier than reliever to starter so keeping him in the Triple-A rotation is almost a necessity at this point. However, next year the Yankees should at least look at putting Nova in the bullpen if the results as a starter don’t please the front office.
Another option might be packaging Nova in a trade but right now his value is depressed and the Yankees would be selling low. Currently, the Yankees would be lucky to get much in return for Nova who has shown only fourth or fifth starter stuff over the last two seasons.
No matter which way you slice it Ivan Nova’s career is at a crossroads and the best fit moving forward might just be in the bullpen.