CLEVELAND -- The rains that drenched Progressive Field on Wednesday night did more than merely wash out a scheduled game between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians.
They also washed out an important start for Ivan Nova, whose turn will be skipped when the two teams take the field Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Phil Hughes, who was suffering from a stomach virus before the game Wednesday night, will start the game while Nova, who struggled all spring and lasted less than five innings in his first start this season, will go to the bullpen, at least temporarily.
“Phil feels better, so we’re going to start him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game was postponed about 55 minutes after its scheduled starting time. “We’ll skip [Nova] and he’ll be in the bullpen and we’ll get him back next turn."
Girardi said he believed the game would be made up in Cleveland on May 13, a common off-day for both teams that comes at the end of a six-game Colorado/Kansas City road trip for the Yankees.
Girardi said his reason for skipping Nova was to keep the rest of his rotation on its regular turn, a move Nova said he understood.
“I know CC & Co. got to pitch on their normal five days," he said.
But he seemed less than thrilled with having to wait five more days to erase his performance against the Tigers on Friday, when he was knocked out in the fifth inning after allowing four runs and took the loss.
“I really dislike having to wait 10 days to pitch again, but I will keep up my arm in good condition with some extra throws in the bullpen," Nova said. “It kind of sucks skipping this start because the team is on a roll here in Cleveland, and I really wanted to come out there and show what I can do."
Nova came to camp having to fight for the last spot in the starting rotation with rookie David Phelps, and after allowing 21 hits in 19 1/3 innings pitched was hardly a lock to win the job. But when Hughes needed to be shut down after suffering pain in his upper back from a bulging disk, both Nova and Phelps came north with the team.
Phelps is in the bullpen as a long man but there has been speculation that Nova’s spot in the rotation could be in jeopardy coming off his poor performance last Friday.
“There’s some good things he did, because he did minimize some damage, but we know he’s capable of a lot more," Girardi said. “I don’t want to judge a guy too much by his first start because there’s a lot of emotions that go into that first start."
After the Yankees lost three of their first four games of the season, Hughes was hustled back to the team from AA Scranton to make the start in Detroit on Saturday. But, like Nova, he failed to get out of the fifth inning, allowing four runs and taking the loss in the Yankees' 8-4 defeat.
Still, it appears the Yankees have more faith in Hughes, who won 16 games last season and came to camp with the No. 4 spot in the rotation locked up. Hughes spent the entire pregame period lying on a couch in the clubhouse occasionally eating from a container of applesauce. Understandably, he did not speak to reporters.
“I just hope he can pitch," Nova said. “He is a great competitor, and I just hope he can come out tomorrow and win it for us. I will do as I am told and be here for my team."