2012 was not a good year for Ivan Nova. After a very strong finish and 3.70 ERA in 2011 catapulted him into the role of number two starter for the 2011 ALDS, Nova became an extra base hit allowing machine and saw his ERA balloon to a whopping 5.02 before a shoulder injury ended his season early. So after coming into camp as a hot commodity, this year he's damaged goods fighting a battle for the final spot in the starting rotation with David Phelps, who will be playing that same darling role Nova occupied last spring.
Nova, however, remains confident in his abilities, and isn't outwardly worried about his place on the team. “I’m going to be there,” Nova told Anthony McCarron after a workout in Tampa yesterday. “Just do my work. It doesn’t cross my mind that I’m going to be in the minor leagues. I’m going to be in the rotation, that’s what I’m working for." Nova also told McCarron that he falls into a habit of throwing pitches even though he knows he can't command them, which is probably not a good approach.
My guess is that this is one of those kind-of-but-not-really "competitions" the Yankees have been putting on of late, and that Nova is the early favorite to win the spot. That's mostly because Phelps has already shown he can handle multiple oles out of the bullpen, however, whereas Nova would likely have to go to the minors. That said, I don't think that Nova is going to get that much rope, so he'll definitely need to at least be respectable in Spring Training to hold the job.