Champagne Ivan Nova In The Sky – and other lessons from Tampa
Still not sold on the Yankees’ rotation and the question marks still begin at the #2 slot, but the work of first Ivan Nova and then Phil Hughes on consecutive nights in Tampa was unavoidably impressive. A year ago Nova proved himself a gutsy pitcher (he happily plunked Jose Bautista and then asked him in Spanish “what are you going to do about it?”) but one who started to have trouble when he’d come out for the fifth inning. Wednesday he again opened with an HBP then retired all the other Orioles he faced, including six of their regulars, and most importantly expended only 59 pitches over six innings. If he could repeat that kind of economy they would have to inducted him into Cooperstown this July, so anything remotely close makes him a legitimate big league starter (BTW note to NYC radio/tv: he’s “Eevan” – the man is not a Russian wrestler with a cutesy name). Hughes was not quite so dominant last night versus Tampa (facing at least eight regulars) but he looked much more like the Cy Young candidate of last year’s first half than the almost .500, almost 5.00 guy of the second half. The other headline out of the Yankee camp is Alex Rodriguez. Whatever the origin of his hip problems, for the first time in two years he looked like he could pivot with them fully, launching titanic homers on both nights, one that disappeared into the night in deep left, the other that towered out more towards center. Rodriguez also looks more agile defensively, and ranged neatly to his left last night to grab a sharply hit ball, planted confidently, and got off one of his old-fashioned rocket throws to beat the runner at the bag. Since if they hope to compete with the Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees have no margin for error, a vintage year from Rodriguez is essential, and the pitching tumblers like Hughes, Nova, A.J. Burnett, and Bartolo Colon all have to twirl perfectly or the post-season is an impossibility.