Monday, July 4, 2011

Right move on Nova for Hughes stings nonetheless

I feel really bad for Ivan Nova, who became the odd man out once Phil Hughes proved he was healthy enough to return to the New York Yankees rotation.

The young Nova pitched really well and seemingly started to get into a groove of late after gaining more and more confidence with each passing start. His numbers – 8 wins against 4 losses, a decent 4.12 ERA pitching in the American League East – certainly don’t justify banishment to the minors.

But the Yankees clearly made the right call. Going to a six-man rotation would have been too disruptive for the rest of the staff, especially ace CC Sabathia, who likes to take the ball every fifth day and throw 120 pitches. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, who saw another terrific effort wasted yesterday by a lack of offense, a rare off night by Mariano Rivera and critical misplays late in the game, have both been too good to take out of the rotation. And hell would have to freeze over before the Yankees pull Mr. Erratic AJ Burnett and his $82.5 million from the rotation.

The talk of putting either Nova or Hughes in the bullpen just didn’t seem like a great option either. I understand and concur with Joe Girardi’s thinking when he says he doesn’t want Nova’s development stunted by unpredictable use out of the bullpen. After the unfortunate season-ending injury to Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees got a lot of questions about Hughes possibly reclaiming his job as Rivera’s set-up man, a move Girardi and Brian Cashman firmly declined to make. Even though Hughes excelled in the bullpen in 2009, the young righty also excelled as a starting pitcher last year and the Yankees have to think of him in that role long term as Garcia and Colon won’t be around to save their rotation forever.

Nova has proven that he has the talent, stuff and heart to be a big-league pitcher. I just hope he isn’t too crushed by his demotion, which really has nothing to do with him.

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