New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and placed on the disabled list. Though there’s been no official announcement, he will likely become the 15th pitcher this season to undergo Tommy John surgery. If this is the case, his 2014 is over.
The question is no longer whether or not Nova can make the jump from good to elite. That ship has sailed, at least for this year. Now, the Yankees must find his replacement in the rotation. The top candidates are Adam Warren, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno – the three pitchers who lost the fifth starter competition to Michael Pineda and were sent to the bullpen.
Warren has been the most successful of the three as a reliever this year. He’s posted a 2.72 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched with nine strikeouts. The three runs he allowed to the Tampa Bay Rays on Apr. 18 are the only runs he’s allowed all year. He came back from that bad outing to throw 1.2 shutout innings a day later.
Phelps has posted a 4.66 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched with 12 strikeouts. He’s struggled more than Warren out of the pen, allowing runs to score in three of his eight appearances. Still, he stepped up when the team needed him. On Apr. 10, with David Robertson and Warren unavailable, he threw 2.1 scoreless innings in relief against the Boston Red Sox to earn his first career save.
Nuno has only thrown 4.1 innings in relief this year and was tagged for seven runs by the Baltimore Orioles on Apr. 8. Nevertheless, he has made the strongest case to take over for Nova. Last Sunday, he got the spot start against the Rays. He threw five shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Warren and Phelps are both pitching well out of the pen, and the Yankees shouldn’t do anything to change that. Otherwise, they might lose a quality reliever in addition to a starter in Nova. Because the Yankees have another lefty in Matt Thornton they will not lose much in relief by moving Nuno.
While Nuno does not have the same fastball velocity, in last Sunday’s game he demonstrated that he knows how to pitch. He’s not flashy, but he can be an effective starter nonetheless. It also wouldn’t hurt to add another southpaw to the starting rotation.
If the recently called up Preston Claiborne can return to his 2013 form, that would give the Yankees another quality right-handed reliever and would allow Phelps or Warren to move to the starting rotation. Until that happens, however, Nuno is the best man for the job.