Ivan Nova to start Wednesday in return from Tommy John surgery

ByWallace Matthews ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees will receive a significant addition to their starting rotation on Wednesday, when right-hander Ivan Nova makes his first start in 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2014.

"It was the moment that we were waiting for," Nova said. "And now, two days away from the return, I'm really anxious, and really happy to be back."

Nova will get the ball against the Philadelphia Phillies in the finale of a three-game series that begins Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Nova's last big league start was on April 19, 2014, when he left after four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays complaining of pain in his elbow after allowing eight runs on eight hits, four of them home runs.

Nova underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction shortly after. The 28-year-old Nova has a lifetime record of 40-22 with a 4.20 ERA. His best season was 2011, when he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA for the Yankees.

"It could mean a lot," manager Joe Girardi said of Nova's return. "We know what he's capable of doing, and he's fairly rested in a sense, so it could mean a lot to our rotation."

In addition to pitching several times in extended spring training games, Nova made three official minor league rehab starts. In his last one, on Friday, he suffered from a lack of command, allowing five earned runs on seven hits in five innings pitched for the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate in Scranton.

"I didn't pitch good, but it was the only bad one through the whole process," Nova said. "Even here in the major leagues, you gonna have times when you don't pitch good. So I don't make any excuses about it. You know, it's not the same excitement pitching in the minors when you know you can be on the big league team."

Girardi, too, downplayed Nova's lack of effectiveness in his final rehab start, preferring to focus on the health of his surgically repaired elbow.

"I don't think you can ever make too much of what a major league hitter or pitcher is doing in a minor league situation because it's just different," he said. "No matter how he does Wednesday, I don't think you could say he wasn't ready or he was ready. It's just kind of a feel that we're using, and we just feel he's ready to go."

Girardi said the Yankees will go with a six-man rotation for the time being -- they are in the middle of a 20 games in 20 days stretch -- but that eventually, one of his starting pitchers will be dropped from the rotation to make room for Nova.

Right now, the rotation consists of right-handers Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Adam Warren and Nathan Eovaldi and left-hander CC Sabathia. Warren, whose next start has been moved back to Thursday's series opener against the Astros in Houston, is the most likely candidate for demotion because of his experience pitching out of the bullpen.

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