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Archive for March 26th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

The Yankees rounded out their rotation this morning by naming Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia as the team’s fourth and fifth starters, respectively. It was also announced that Bartolo Colon would serves as a swing man in the bullpen, similar to the role Alfredo Aceves performed when healthy over the past three seasons.

Is Ivan Nova ready for the bright lights of being a major league starter?

Although the spring battle for the rotation was billed as an open competition, the decision to go with Garcia over Colon wasn’t really surprising. Heading into camp, it seemed as if the Yankees preferred Nova and Garcia in the rotation, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to change plans based on 15 exhibition innings. As previously noted, however, the Yankees rotation will remain very fluid throughout the year, so by no means are these assignments set in stone, especially with Kevin Millwood now in the fold.

During March, a lot of attention was paid to the Yankees’ cavalcade of veteran starters, which collectively resembled more of an Old Timer’s Day All Star team than an opening day roster, but the real story that emerged from camp was the performance of Ivan Nova.  In addition to posting a 1.80 ERA in 20 spring innings, Nova also impressed observers by quickly learning how to throw a new pitch. Under the tutelage of Billy Connors last October, Nova adjusted the grip on his slider, effectively turning the pitch into a cutter.

During the spring, Nova used his new pitch to great effect, but it remains to be seen if he’ll enjoy the same amount of success once the games start to count. Combined with his already impressive fastball, above average curve and functional changeup, however, the addition of cutter makes Nova a much more dynamic pitcher, and perhaps one worthy of lofty expectation. After all, Connors has a pretty good track record teaching the cutter. Just ask Greg Maddux and Andy Pettitte.

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