Joe Girardi sent Ivan Nova across the street to pitch to a squad of AAA Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon rather than have him face the Yankees divisional rival Baltimore Orioles for a second time this spring, and Nova responded with probably his best outing of camp so far.
Nova worked into the eighth inning, allowed seven hits and three runs, including a home run that catcher Russell Martin called "a wind-aided fly ball.'' He struck out five, walked one and threw 94 pitches, 63 for strikes.
“Today was a good day for him,'' Martin said. The home run ended up barely scraping over the fence, but besides that, his pitches were there. That’s what I wanted to see from him. He hadn’t put it all together. Today was one of those games where he had everything.”
Nova, whose spring training ERA is an unsightly 6.86, went directly home from the minor-league complex without sharing his thoughts on his days work with reporters. But he got an unqualified vote of support from his catcher.
"I think he’s going to have a great year; that’s my personal opinion,'' Martin said. "He went above expectations last year with what he did, so he’s got maybe a little bit more pressure on him to try to do that again. But he's a guy that wants the ball and never backs down.''
Martin stopped short, however, of saying Nova had earned a spot in the rotation. “Honestly, I feel like we’ve got six guys that are deserving to be in the five-spot rotation that we have,'' Martin said. "I’m just really glad I don’t have to make that decision. I don’t think I’d be able to.”