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Ivan Nova has inside track on rotation spot

02/08/2013 10:29 AM ET
By Jon Lane

Full of confidence, Ivan Nova is determined to crack the Yankees' rotation.(AP)
Ivan Nova and David Phelps are set to compete for the job as New York Yankees fifth starter, but while speaking to reporters outside the Yankees' Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla., pitching coach Larry Rothschild implied that Nova could have an inside track to round out the team's rotation.

"You look at Nova and he's had a lot of wins the last two years," Rothschild said. "My job going into Spring Training is to get him back to where he should be and pitching the way he's capable of, and the rest will take care of itself."

Nova went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA as a rookie in 2011 and last season went 10-3, 3.29 in the first half before the bottom fell out. The right-hander went 1-4, 7.28 until right rotator cuff inflammation forced him to the disabled list. He finished the second half 2-5, 7.05, the season at 12-8, 5.02 and was left off the postseason roster.

Rothschild chalked up to "two bad months," noting that Nova continued working with a pitch even though he wasn't successful with it.

"He went through what young pitchers go through," Rothschild said. "You can go through the history of a lot of young pitchers and you can see they've gone through similar things. It's how you come out of it that's more important than that you went through it.'"

Phelps showed promise last season as both a starter and reliever. He put up a 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 97 strikeouts over 99 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Nova, though, said earlier this week he has no doubt that he will be a starter when the Yankees break camp.

"They saw what I got," Nova said. "I had a bad year last year but I had a good one before that one. I think they know that. I just have to be healthy and do my job. I don't think I have anything to prove."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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