Nova taking nothing for granted this spring

Nova taking nothing for granted this spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Ivan Nova was pleasantly surprised when he looked at the Red Sox lineup on Tuesday night. At this point in the spring, it isn't always a guarantee that the hitters you'll be facing are the same ones you'll be facing during the regular season.

Not so for Nova on this night. He would be facing six of Boston's likely Opening Day starters.

"I wasn't expecting that, to be honest," Nova said after the Yankees' 6-3 win. "You never expect to see the other team with the starting lineup. I came ready for this day today, and when I see the lineup, I laughed. I was like, 'Oh, they bring everybody today.' That was kind of fun. That kept me more focused."

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Nova went four innings, giving up one run on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts.

"Awesome," he said of his performance. "It was a good outing. Today, again, a lot of strikes. Commanded my fastball. Happy with it."

Manager Joe Girardi concurred.

"Really good," Girardi said. "He was facing a really good lineup, and I thought he pitched really well."

Nova, who went 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA in 17 starts last season, is competing for a spot in the rotation, and he is satisfied with how his spring is going. In three starts, spanning nine innings, he's allowed just two runs. But he is taking nothing for granted.

"You've got to approach not only Spring Training but the season and your career as a competition," he said. "I always say the same thing: I never come to Spring Training with a sure spot. There may be some point that I'll be in the rotation. But I don't feel that way. So, I've got to keep working and approach it like a competition."

It's that kind of competition that will help him prepare for the season. Nova was challenged early in the game, giving up hits to the first two batters he faced -- singles to Rusney Castillo and Dustin Pedroia -- with designated hitter David Ortiz coming up. But Nova got the slugger to ground into a double play, with Castillo scoring, then struck out shortstop Xander Bogaerts to end the inning.

Nova struck out Hanley Ramirez to open the 1-2-3 second inning. In the third, he struck out former teammate Chris Young to lead off. After getting Ryan Hanigan to fly out and giving up a walk to Castillo, he struck out Pedroia, looking, to end the inning.

He had some traffic on the bases in the fourth but managed his way out of the threat. Bogaerts reached on an error by shortstop Pete Kozma with one out, and Ramirez singled before Pablo Sandoval grounded into a fielder's choice and David Murphy grounded out to end the inning.

"I like to compete, and I always compete," Nova said. "Against another team, your teammates, sometimes you put it in the back of your mind, even against yourself, and prove that you are a good enough pitcher, that you can do a really good job out there. You got to have that in your mind."

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