SEATTLE -- Ivan Nova is set to take a significant step in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, as the Yankees right-hander has been cleared to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
Nova threw approximately 75 pitches in an extended spring game on Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., throwing three innings against hitters before finishing in the bullpen due to rain, according to manager Joe Girardi.
It has not been decided where Nova's Minor League rehab will begin, but at least one start for Class A Advanced Tampa appears likely. The Yankees have said that they expect Nova to be available for big league duty sometime in June, and it is possible that he may not need the full 30 days to rehab.
"I think it's really where we feel he's at after his starts," Girardi said. "I don't necessarily think that you'd say, once he starts his rehab, it's going to take 30 days. It may.
"I think a lot of times with Tommy John, the thing that they worry about most is the command. They don't worry about the strength and the power so much -- that seems to come back -- but you have to worry about the command, and that's what you have to look at when he's pitching."
Nova, 28, made four starts for the Yankees last year before undergoing surgery in April, going 2-2 with an 8.27 ERA. He is 40-22 with a 4.20 ERA over five big league seasons (93 games, 86 starts). Girardi said that the Yankees might use Nova to insert a sixth starter in the rotation at some point this month.
"If we felt like he was ready to go, sure," Girardi said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.