Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote about the Ivan Nova/David Phelps battle for the fifth starter role. Yankees manager Joe Girardi stated that Nova "has to go out and prove himself” in order to win the spot. For his part, Nova understands why it's going to be a battle for the position and he spoke about his struggles last season by succinctly saying, "I got hit."
Why yes, he did.
Nova admitted he also began to press while in the midst of his struggles last season which made things worse:
“I’m not going to lie: Sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes. Because you’re trying to do your job, and you can’t. Because I was still working. I was working hard during the year. I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted.”
Ivan Nova is one of those pitchers who when he's on, he can be really good but when he's off, he falls off a cliff. Actually, there was one start in particular that encapsulated Nova's career thus far: May 19 against the Cincinnati Reds. He gave up five earned runs in six innings, earning the loss but also struck out 12 batters. It was such a frustrating game to watch.
Hmm, this sounds an awful like his former best friend A.J. Burnett's days in pinstripes, doesn't it? (For the record, I am not blaming Burnett for anything. I just thought the comparison would be amusing.)
In 2012, Nova not only struggled to pitch well but he struggled to stay healthy as well - he had an inflamed rotator cuff which kept him out for two weeks. His ERA overall was pretty bad (5.03) but it was putrid after June (6.38). He also gave up a lot of homers and doubles (28 and 52 respectively) with multiple doubles in half of his 28 starts. He even had five starts in which he allowed at least four doubles. As McCullough said in his piece, "That's a lot of doubles."
So for Nova, this Spring is extremely important. He has to earn the right to be in the starting rotation and the trust of Girardi and the coaching staff, otherwise he'll be watching David Phelps take the ball every fifth day.