As you probably know by now–thanks to last night’s canceled game thread–the Yankees will be skipping Ivan Nova‘s turn in the rotation, opting to go with Phil Hughes tomorrow; Nova will work out of the bullpen in between starts.
Nova struggled in his first start. Though he struck out five batters, he didn’t finish five innings, tossing just 4. in Detroit on the fifth. He also gave up four runs (all earned) and allowed seven baserunners (five hits, two walks). Something else of note, though, happened in that game and Mike explained it the other day: Nova was throwing a sinker at the Tigers’ batters. If we head over to BrooksBaseball and check out Nova’s player card, we can see that he threw the sinker 15% of the time, his third most used pitch behind his fastball (46%) and his curveball (25%). It would seem that goal number one would be for Nova to use that sinker when he’s brought in for a relief outing. As it will be a relief outing, Nova (likely) won’t need to worry about going through the order twice. So, he can use his sinker without having to adjust or think about it too much. Working in a new pitch is all about feel and if Nova’s in a game in relief, chances are it’s a game that won’t be too pressure packed–long relief usually means a blowout one way or the other. A low-leverage situation could be just what he needs to start perfecting a pitch that could be effective going forward. Last season, Nova’s groundball rate dropped over 10% (45.2% in 2012 down from 52.7 in 2011) and despite a big uptick in strikeouts, Nova got hit all around the park last year. Adding a sinker will force Nova to work down in the zone and hopefully allow him to regain some grounders, which are always helpful. He’s got a fastball to beat batters upstairs and get swings and misses. A low, grounder inducing sinker would be a perfect complement.