Nova not letting go of another chance to start

Yankees righty excelling since rejoining rotation

Nova not letting go of another chance to start

OAKLAND -- Ivan Nova tried to play the role of good teammate through the first several weeks of the season, attempting to adjust to an unfamiliar long relief role while making it clear that his preference would be to return to the rotation.

Nova believed that an opportunity would come his way sooner or later, and now that it has arrived, the right-hander seems intent on making sure it never slips away. Nova was excellent again Thursday, allowing a run over six innings in the Yankees' 4-1 victory over the Athletics.

"It's way different than being in the bullpen," Nova said. "To have my time to warm up and have my pitches that you want to work on -- in the bullpen, you don't have that chance. When you're starting, if you don't have it in the first inning, you can have it in the second inning."

Through three starts, Nova hasn't had to search much. Limiting Oakland to four hits over six innings, Nova was extremely economical (62 pitches, 44 strikes) as he improved to 2-0 with a 1.68 ERA as a starter this season.

"It's what he's used to doing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We asked him to start in the bullpen this year and I thought he did a pretty good job. He's been good for us as a starter; he's done a really nice job and thrown three good games. He's throwing the ball good."

Yankees catcher Brian McCann said that Nova's barreling sinker was key in coaxing ground balls from the A's; 12 of the 18 outs Nova recorded came in that fashion, including two double plays.

"When he's got that movement and he's pitching it to both sides of the plate, you're going to get some ground balls and quick outs, and he did that tonight," McCann said.

Nova's command also has improved in his second year back from Tommy John surgery. He logged a 5.07 ERA in 94 big league innings last season.

"I think he's locating down and away better, glove side," McCann said. "He's locating that pitch so much better this year than he did last year."

The lone blemish on Nova's night was Josh Reddick's fourth-inning homer, which played into Girardi's decision to hand the game over to Dellin Betances in the seventh, with Reddick due to lead off.

Nova said that he was surprised to get the hook with the pitch count so low, but given the names following him in the box score, he said that he understood. Given time to cool off, Nova could take satisfaction in another strong effort, proving that the Yankees have no reason to look elsewhere.

"I do it more for a personal thing than to show anybody else," Nova said. "I was struggling last year. I've got to put myself back and be better than I was last year. That's the only thing."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. 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.