Nova continues Yanks' strong string of starts

Right-hander throws three scoreless innings against Mets

Nova continues Yanks' strong string of starts

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Yankees' rotation has looked strong in Grapefruit League games this year, and Ivan Nova continued that trend Wednesday by pitching three shutout innings in a 4-4 tie with the Mets. It was Nova's second start this spring and lowered his ERA to 1.80. Yankees starters have combined for a 1.29 ERA over the past seven games.

"I felt really good today," the 29-year-old right-hander said. "My sinker was working fine. My fastball command was good. I threw some good curveballs. I got ground balls when I needed. It was a good day."

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It certainly was a far cry from what Nova experienced in his final 10 starts last season, when he went 2-8 with a 6.58 ERA, finishing the season 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA after returning from Tommy John surgery.

"I thought it was going to be a good year," Nova said. "I started really well, and then everything went off. Just couldn't throw strikes. Stuff like that happens. You're going to have a good day, you're going to have bad days. The first thing is you got to stay positive and keep working. Got to keep everything in the past and focus on this year."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that nothing is set in stone as to how the starting rotation will be constructed when the regular season begins, but Nova certainly is going to be strongly considered for a spot.

"I've liked what I've seen from our rotation," Girardi said. "I think there's questions about our health, you know, No. 1, but I'm excited about the possibilities of what these guys can do. Health is always a cause of concern for every manager. ... I think a lot of times when you talk about our pitching, you talk about the back end of our bullpen because it's so dominate. But I think our starters could be really good, I do."

Nova agrees with his manager's assessment of the rotation. He just hopes he can earn a spot there.

"I always say I'm competing [for a rotation spot] all the time," Nova said. "I haven't had a year with a sure spot. Since my first Spring Training, I've always been competing, so this is no different. ... I'm happy with both outings. Hopefully, as I keep pitching, I'll feel better and better. I'm focusing on throwing strikes right now. Just trying to command my strike zone, with my fastball especially, and keep my sinker working."

Worth noting

• Girardi is looking forward to seeing if Nathan Eovaldi, who makes his first start this spring on Thursday (1:05 p.m. ET on MLB.TV), picks up where he left off last year before being shut down because of right elbow inflammation in early September. Eovaldi was 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 2015.

"I think he just needs to pitch the way he did the last month-and-a-half, two months last year," Girardi said. "We thought he took great strides. He just needs to be consistent like he was."

• Catchers Kyle Higashioka and Sebastian Valle, both non-roster invitees, picked an opportune time to hit their first home runs this spring on Wednesday. They each homered on 1-1 pitches in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game.

Higashioka's solo blast

Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.