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"In 2012, I quit and said I'm not throwing that anymore because sometimes I feel like my elbow is getting tight, and then I lost the confidence," Nova said. "It wasn't coming out really well so I decided to stop throwing it. And now that I feel the way I feel now, I just took it back."
Yankees catcher Brian McCann said the pitch helped Nova in his outing on Tuesday against the Red Sox, when he hurled four innings of one-run ball with four strikeouts, and he continued to call the cutter against the Twins on Sunday.
"He had good action on it the last start in Boston, and today it was another weapon," McCann said. "It's going to complement his fastball really well."
Nova can use any edge he can find; Sabathia is viewed by many to have a leg up in the fifth-starter's race because of his contract and stature, even though the Yankees insist they will base their decision on who best helps the team win games.
"I think you take the whole body of work, but obviously you put a little more weight on these last few starts," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
In four spring starts, Nova has a 4.05 ERA and has permitted 13 hits in 13 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out eight. Sabathia owns a 7.36 ERA in three starts and has allowed 11 hits over 7 1/3 innings, with four walks and four strikeouts.
"Numbers don't matter. I feel good right now," Nova said. "The command was OK. Not like the last two starts that I had, but I feel good."
Nova walked three and struck out two, and Girardi said that Nova battled despite not having a sharp curveball.
"He found a way to get through it," Girardi said. "They had an 'A' lineup out there today. He got a lot of ground balls; that's what we want to see from him. He got a few strikeouts. I thought he did a good job."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.