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Nova improving, hoping for short DL stint

Right-hander plays catch for first time since finger sprain
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Ivan Nova, placed on the disabled list on Monday, played catch on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since his start last Thursday in Cincinnati.

Nova reported "some improvement" in his sprained right ring finger, which has bothered him since his April 26 start against the Tigers but did not keep him from pitching until Tuesday. Nova had been slated to start against the Cubs at PNC Park, but the Pirates decided to put him on the 10-day DL and call up Nick Kingham to fill his spot in the rotation.

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PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Ivan Nova, placed on the disabled list on Monday, played catch on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since his start last Thursday in Cincinnati.

Nova reported "some improvement" in his sprained right ring finger, which has bothered him since his April 26 start against the Tigers but did not keep him from pitching until Tuesday. Nova had been slated to start against the Cubs at PNC Park, but the Pirates decided to put him on the 10-day DL and call up Nick Kingham to fill his spot in the rotation.

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Despite his desire to take the ball every fifth day, Nova admitted on Tuesday that the move was in his best interest.

"Obviously not good enough to pitch today," Nova said. "I think that was the right choice just to take a couple days off, get treated. Feels much better. … It's getting better."

Nova will be eligible to return on Monday, as his DL assignment was made retroactive to last Friday. Nova said he hopes he will not be sidelined for long. He is undergoing daily treatment, and if his finger feels as good on Wednesday as it did on Tuesday, he will throw again.

"With this kind of injury, you take it day by day," Nova said. "Today, you don't know how it's going to feel tomorrow."

While Nova said the injury affected his curveball, it also impacted the use of his changeup. Nova could not fully extend his ring finger around the baseball, altering his grip and extension on the pitch.

In five May starts, Nova posted a 7.61 ERA as opponents slashed .355/.389/.598 against him. Batters were particularly effective against his changeup, according to Statcast™, batting .429 with a .714 slugging percentage on the offering.

Around the horn
• Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli (illness) was out of Tuesday's lineup for the third straight game. However, he felt well enough Monday night to be available as a defensive replacement for Elias Diaz.

• Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez made himself available out of the bullpen in Tuesday night's 8-6 loss after exiting Sunday's game and sitting out Monday due to minor flexor irritation in his left forearm. Vazquez played catch and long toss on Monday, after undergoing an MRI and other tests, and threw a handful of higher-velocity pitches at game speed on Tuesday afternoon.

Vazquez worked a perfect ninth on 11 pitches (10 strikes), four of which topped 100 mph. Overall, Vazquez threw his five fastest pitches of the season.

"He looks healthy, doesn't he?" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Go figure. … That was a good sign, for sure."

Vazquez attributed his recent struggles -- he has blown his last three save opportunities -- to fatigue after too much pregame work. He said he didn't alter his routine on Tuesday, aside from listening to more music in the morning, but it was the best he has felt all season.

"The ball was flying out of my hand. I knew that I was not even pushing too hard," Vazquez said. "It was just easing up on my mechanics and letting the arm flow. The first one, I knew I was feeling OK."

• Slumping right fielder Gregory Polanco did not start for the second straight day, as Austin Meadows got the nod in right field. Sean Rodriguez (left field) and David Freese (third base) also started against veteran lefty Jon Lester.

• Outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds (fractured hamate bone) came off the DL on Tuesday for Double-A Altoona. Reynolds, the Pirates' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has been out since April 8. Right-hander Dario Agrazal, Pittsburgh's No. 28 prospect, went on the DL due to a right shoulder strain.

• Triple-A Indianapolis activated Jose Osuna, who was optioned by the Pirates on Saturday, and released right-hander Brett McKinney.

• Rennie Stennett, who won a World Series with the Pirates in 1979 and had a seven-hit game in '75, will represent the Bucs at the MLB Draft next week.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Ivan Nova