BRADENTON, Fla. -- Today was a perfect opportunity for Ivan Nova to establish a clear lead in the competition between he and David Phelps for the Yankees No. 5 starter's job. Phelps had had a so-so outing Saturday night against the Braves, allowing a 3-run homer in the fifth inning, causing his splendid spring ERA to soar from 0.64 to 2.37.
So what does Nova do? He goes out and has an equally pedestrian outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving back half of an eight-run lead by the time he left in the fifth inning. It started, as many bad things do, with a leadoff walk to Russell Martin, which led to a three-run fourth inning for Pittsburgh. Them in the fifth, Nova -- who led the major leagues in extra-base hits allowed last year -- surrendered a bomb to Clint Barmes that drew the Pirates to within 8-5.
Still, Nova said he felt good about his game, and his spring so far.
"I think I threw the ball good," said Nova, whose excellent spring ERA of 1.00 rose to 3.21. "I got hit a couple times but I was throwing the ball where I wanted to. "I can't complain. I think my spring's been really good."
Joe Girardi, however, tempered his review somewhat. "You know, he was pretty good for the first three innings then he got some balls up in the fourth and they hit em," Girardi said. "He was OK. Pretty good curveball today."
Nova blamed some of his problems today on not being completely comfortable with an adjustment made to his throwing motion when he throws his curveball by pitching coach Larry Rothschild. "We're still working on my arm actions," he said. "It's not easy to do. Today a couple times it wasn't there. But I feel comfortable and we've got like two more starts. I think this is going to be enough time to get ready for the beginning of the season."