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Pregame notebook: Nova makes return to the Bronx

06/23/2013 1:59 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Ivan Nova is making his first start since the month of May.(AP)
It’s another day in the sun for many of the past Yankees greats here on Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium, but once their moment comes to a close, the current Bombers have their own business to attend to: their series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays. Ivan Nova makes his return to the Bronx to start today’s game, coming back after a trio of strong outings at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The righty struggled a bit in his early-season stint in the Bronx, but manager Joe Girardi said he was pleased with the results of Nova’s trip to Scranton and hopes he can channel that success today.

“I expect him to go out and pitch well; we sent him down to get stretched out and get him some consistent work, and if his command of his fastball is really good, he’s got a great chance to succeed,” Girardi said of Nova.

Nova did have two relief outings between his activation from the disabled list and his re-assignment, and Girardi also said that may have given the righty some confidence in his stuff.

“His relief stint here where he gave us some distance was good; when his fastball was down in the zone, it was really good and got a lot of swings and misses. He also had a good curveball, and that’s what we need today,” Girardi said.

And, perhaps the last few weeks have also re-lit the fire in Nova’s belly, the skipper hoped.

“When you’ve had a taste of this life, you don’t want to be in the Minors. This is the place everyone dreams about being, so you have to figure out a way to put yourself in a situation where they can’t consider sending you down. The trick is not getting here, it’s staying here; guys will make adjustments to you, so you can’t lose your focus,” Girardi said. “Whenever a guy is frustrated about going down, I always tell them they can do one of two things: go down and pout about being there and not go about it the right way, or prove why you belong in the Majors. Those are your two options, and you can only control what you can control.”

And once today is over, Girardi made no promises on Nova’s future, re-iterating that it’s all in the righty’s hands.

“Those are decisions we’ll have to make, but he can only control what he does today,” Girardi said.

Behind Nova, today’s lineup once again contains an ex-RailRiders teammate in Zoilo Almonte, who has impressed Joe Girardi so far in his first week in the Majors.

“His plate discipline has been really good, the way he’s gotten himself into good counts and not chased pitches – a bases-loaded walk is hard for a young guy to do,” Girardi said. “The two-out hit when we were having trouble scoring runs yesterday, his discipline there was very good…that’s been impressive to me.”

That impression is similar to the one Almonte made on the brass in Spring Training, where Girardi said the switch-hitter showed his mettle.

“He’s a young man who’s pretty calm, has a pretty good swing, and loves to play and is looking for every opportunity to play,” Girardi said. “We maybe saw him try to do too much in Spring Training, diving after balls maybe you shouldn’t, but that’s an effort thing and you never want to take that away from a player; you want the effort to be there, and any young player is going to try to do too much in Spring Training to show a manager what he has, but we saw talent.”

David Adams is another ex-RailRider in the lineup, and while he’s been struggling of late, Girardi hopes that knowing he’ll be playing every day will help Adams feel more comfortable going forward.

“Teams make adjustments to you very quickly in this day and age; it’s not hard to see your strengths and weaknesses, so you have to make adjustments, and sometimes as a young player you try to do too much,” Girardi said. “It’s hard as a young player trying to prove that you belong when you hear guys may be coming back, and you have to try to guard against doing too much.”

All that said, it is still the Old-Timers’ moment, so the last word goes to the one man who will take part in both ends of the day’s festivities: Girardi himself.

“I love Old-Timers’ Day, it’s one of my favorite days. I’ve seen Paul O’Neill, Goose, Yogi, Lou Piniella roll in…it’s special. What these guys have meant to the New York Yankees organization, and being able to have played alongside some of them, it’s been great. … I think you like seeing the collection of everyone, but there’s always one or two new guys – this year it’s Flash (John Flaherty), and it’s fun to see them.”

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