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Ivan Nova good, bullpen bad in Yankees' loss to Phillies

TAMPA, Fla. -- Good news first for the New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer on his first swing of the exhibition season, and Ivan Nova threw two tidy innings in his first start, leaving with a 2-1 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.

The bad news? Just about everything that followed. After Nova left, seven Yankees relievers followed, and allowed 12 more runs to the Phillies, who sent Maikel Franco, J.P. Arencibia and bunch of guys you've never heard of to Steinbrenner Field but still left with a 13-4 victory on Thursday.

Of the seven relievers, only Branden Pinder came away without allowing a run. Jacob Lindgren gave up four in one-third of an inning without allowing a hit. (The three walks and a hit batter did the trick). Anthony Swarzak allowed Pinder's runners to score, plus two of his own. James Pazos, who showed promise at the end of last season, gave up three in two-thirds of an inning. And so on.

These, of course, are some of the candidates to provide middle relief this season. Aside from the Big 3 of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, only Chasen Shreve seems assured of a job. As Joe Girardi rightly points out, it is too early to start judging anyone's performance. But it certainly was a mess, and a game that flew by for five innings in under an hour slogged home in an interminable three hours, 14 minutes.

Nova did his work in a hurry, however, allowing a first-inning run on an RBI double by Darin Ruf but then retiring his next four hitters on three ground balls and a strikeout, an indication that his sinker was working. Nova, who is ostensibly in a fight for the No. 5 starter's job with CC Sabathia, was pleased with his work, as was Girardi. He will go again Wednesday, when the Yankees travel to Port St. Lucie to play the New York Mets.

"My arm feels probably better than what I feel last year," said Nova, who is in his second spring following Tommy John surgery. "I don't have to prove anything [to the Yankees]. They have seen enough from me. I don't worry about trying to impress my manager or pitching coach. I just have to prove to myself I can be in the rotation. I just have to concentrate and do my job.”

Pitching probables: Girardi released his rotation for the next seven games: Bryan Mitchell faces the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland on Friday; Tyler Cloyd goes against the Boston Red Sox at home on Saturday; Masahiro Tanaka makes his first spring start against the Phillies in Clearwater on Sunday; Michael Pineda makes his spring debut Monday at home against the Houston Astros; CC Sabathia does the same Tuesday against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter; Nova goes against the Mets on Wednesday in St. Lucie; and Nathan Eovaldi, who threw a bullpen Thursday morning and has been brought along slowly because of a minor groin injury, makes his first start next Thursday at home in a split-squad game against the Toronto Blue Jays.