DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Veteran right-hander Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates on Opening Day, manager Clint Hurdle announced on Wednesday. Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start Pittsburgh's home opener at PNC Park.At only 31 years old, Nova has become the elder statesman of the Bucs' young rotation. The former
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Veteran right-hander Ivan Nova will start for the Pirates on Opening Day, manager Clint Hurdle announced on Wednesday. Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start Pittsburgh's home opener at PNC Park.
At only 31 years old, Nova has become the elder statesman of the Bucs' young rotation. The former Yankees pitcher's ninth big league season will begin with his first career Opening Day start against the Tigers at Comerica Park on March 29.
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"Nova's the dean of the starting rotation," Hurdle said. "He's the guy, from my vantage point and from [pitching coach Ray Searage's] and from [general manager Neal Huntington's]. We had the conversation. Give him the ball in Detroit and let him break open the season for us."
Nova went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA in 187 innings over 31 starts last year, his first full season with the Pirates. Nova joined the club in an August 2016 trade with the Yankees, put together an outstanding two months in Pittsburgh and re-signed with the Bucs last offseason on a three-year, $27 million deal.
"He was excited," Hurdle said. "That's kind of cool to see when you've got a guy in your over-30 club that's getting his first Opening Day opportunity. He'll be ready to go."
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The Tigers have not announced their Opening Day starter, but Nova will likely line up against Detroit right-hander Michael Fulmer, with Jordan Zimmermann the other possibility. Nova has made four career appearances at Comerica Park, including one start with the Pirates. Overall, he is 0-3 with an 8.35 ERA in Detroit.
After bouncing in and out of New York's rotation, Nova was outstanding for Pittsburgh in the final two months of 2016 (3.06 ERA) and the first three months of '17 (3.08 ERA). He struggled down the stretch, posting a 5.58 ERA after July 1 last season. He entered camp this spring 10 pounds lighter and committed to being a leader on a young Pirates team.
"I believe in every guy in the rotation, to be honest," Nova said last month. "We've got guys that are getting another year of experience and are for sure going to help us out."
One of them is Taillon, who will face the Twins on April 2 in Pittsburgh. The 26-year-old right-hander went 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 starts last season. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in early May, Taillon battled back and returned to the mound at PNC Park only five weeks later.
"You want a guy that can go do something meaningful in the home opener -- because it's an exciting day -- that can hopefully play down to the adrenaline," Hurdle said. "If you're going to pick somebody that's dealt with more adversity than Taillon, I don't know if you'll find one. The home opener, I don't think that's anything that's going to rattle him right about now. He was excited about the opportunity to do it as well."
The Pirates have not yet finalized the rest of their rotation assignments, Hurdle said, noting there are "too many moving parts." But it seems likely the other spots will go to right-handers Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove, if he is ready to break camp with the club after being set back by right shoulder discomfort earlier this spring.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.