Ivan Nova stepped up on Saturday for the New York Yankees. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was like Thor, repeatedly dropping the hammer on the San Francisco Giants en route to seven strikeouts and his second complete game shutout over the past month. What is more, he gave an overworked Yankees bullpen a much needed day off.
In the short term, the Yankees will need Nova for one more solid start in the regular season and (hopefully) three or four more in the postseason. In the long term, they’ll need him to continue this type of dominance in 2014.
Looking to next year, the Yankee starting rotation has more questions than Will Smith’s family at the VMAs. Andy Pettitte is retiring at the end of this year. Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes are both free agents to be, and though incumbent ace C.C. Sabathia will be back next season, he has just set career worsts for losses and ERA in 2013.
Nova is 9-5 with a 3.13 ERA, but has had an up and down year. For instance, he alternated two great starts against the Baltimore Orioles – including a three-hit shutout on Aug. 29 – with two abysmal ones against the Boston Red Sox.
Still, the good has outweighed the bad. “Super” Nova has shown flashes of brilliance which earned him the Pitcher of the Month Award for August, and he gives the Yankees a great chance at winning every time he takes the mound. Nova is the lone bright spot in the starting rotation, the only arm that fans can be excited about next year.
Nova’s got ace-like stuff. He just needs the experience and the ability to improve his game in big moments – like he did Friday. They’ll need more of the same next year if the Yankees want to contend.
In addition to Nova, the Yankees could also be sitting on a winning lottery ticket with Michael Pineda, who missed the 2013 season due to injury. If he lives up to the hype he brought with him from the Seattle Mariners and Sabathia can learn to pitch with a 93-mph fastball, the three of them could form a formidable front end of the rotation in 2014.