Nova eager to earn his spot in Yanks' rotation

Righty knows 'pen a possibility, wants to regain command from early in career

February 11th, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ivan Nova understands that he does not have the luxury of a guaranteed rotation spot, but as the Yankees right-hander eyes a bounce-back campaign in his second year removed from Tommy John surgery, he has made his preference clear.

"I'm a starting pitcher; I'm not a reliever," Nova said on Thursday. "But like I say, it's their decision. Whatever they tell me to do, that's what I've got to do. Maybe I can feel bad going into the bullpen, but what does that change? Nothing, I've still got to go to the bullpen."

Nova spoke after a workout at the Yanks' Minor League complex, where fellow starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino were also present. Masahiro Tanaka is expected to arrive in Tampa on Friday.

The 29-year-old Nova avoided arbitration last month by agreeing to a one-year, $4.1 million contract that marks his final season under team control, and he said that if his time in pinstripes is running short, he'd like to depart on a high note.

"You know, I'm a free agent after this year," Nova said. "If I leave the Yankees one day -- hopefully I never leave the Yankees, but if I leave the Yankees one day -- I want to leave with a championship. That's the goal."

Nova was 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA in 17 starts after returning from the disabled list in June, having had Tommy John surgery performed on April 29, 2014. His 11 losses were a career high, but he has not used the recovery from his procedure as an excuse.

"Whatever happened last year, it wasn't because of the Tommy John. I didn't pitch good," Nova said. "If I was feeling pain or tired or anything like that, I'm going to say I don't feel good. I'm not going to start. I'm sure that they're going to believe me because you're coming back from Tommy John. I felt good the whole time. I just didn't pitch good."

Nova plans to review video of his pitch sequences from last season in hopes of regaining the command that saw him go 35-16 with a 4.21 ERA in his first 75 career starts. His 16 losses through his first 75 starts in pinstripes were the fewest since David Cone (44-14), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"My career hasn't been like maybe a lot of people wanted it to be, having a good year every year," Nova said. "I've had some good moments, some bad moments. Like I say, that's in the past. I feel good enough to compete and good enough to do a good job."