Nova puts injury, rehab in past with victory
Yankees righty makes first start since April 2014, throws 6 2/3 scoreless innings
NEW YORK -- He fiddled with a towel wrapped around his shoulder following the Yankees' 10-2 victory on Wednesday, tucking back in a piece that had come loose. With that fixed, Ivan Nova wrapped his right arm behind his back and flashed the scar from the surgery that had cost him so much time.
"It's an opportunity that I was waiting for these last 14 months," Nova said. "Somebody told me I would sleep well before, I want to tell him he's a liar. I didn't sleep."
Nova had just thrown 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a win over the Phillies, his first Major League start since April 19, 2014.
On Tuesday night, Nova lay in bed as the clock ticked toward his first big league start after Tommy John surgery. He thought of the family who would call in the morning, both to congratulate and to ask for tickets. He went to bed early, knowing they'd call early. Sleep didn't come.
Then came morning. The phone rang, just like he expected, and it was time to head to Yankee Stadium.
"I almost cried when I was walking back here," Nova said.
After he worked through a pregame bullpen routine, Nova knew he had his best stuff back already.
As his teammates took their positions behind him, Nova stood behind the mound, eyes locked on the plate. His shoulders rose and fell with one deep breath, and he stepped on the mound. With a 92-mph fastball to Phillies leadoff hitter Ben Revere, 14 months of rehab came to a close.
In the 91 pitches that followed, Nova chewed through the Phillies' lineup, using his curveball and sinker to force lifeless contact. He struck out just one batter, but held Philadelphia to three hits and picked up his first win since April 13, 2014.
When the time came to turn the game over to his bullpen, Nova seemed reluctant. He hesitated, then gave in and made for the dugout. As he walked, he pulled off his cap and waved it to the cowd, which gave him a standing ovation.
"I think that's one of the best things, not only to come back, but to do that in front of the Yankee fans," he said. "The way they treated me, I'm really happy."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi -- who watched Nova from the clubhouse after being ejected in the third inning -- said everything the 28-year-old did impressed him. Alex Rodriguez called him "a shot in the arm." Catcher John Ryan Murphy took note of how calm he was, especially after all that time off.
Nova said that doesn't matter anymore. Once he took the mound, those 14 months -- Tommy John surgery, rehab by himself in Florida, trudging through the Minors while his teammates played on -- were behind him.
"I don't want to look back," Nova said. "Whatever happened in the past stays in the past. I feel good."
The crowd around him dispersed, and Nova threw off the towel, pulling on a tan suit before heading out the door. He had some sleep to catch up on.