Turns out Nova will be a Game 1 pitcher, instead.
The suspension of Friday's ALDS Game 1 at Yankee Stadium means that instead of starting Game 2, Nova will pick up where CC Sabathia left off in Game 1. The right-hander will take the mound in the third inning against the Tigers at 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS, and proceed from there.
"I feel like a No. 1 starter right now," Nova said late Friday night. "It's really exciting."
Other than that, it is not much of a change. Nova will be pitching at the same time and on the same mound that he originally expected, only under slightly different circumstances. The lessons learned from Pettitte will still apply, considering their universal message.
- 2011 Regular Season
- Overall: 31 GS, 11-13, 2.83 ERA, 37 BB, 146 Ks
- Overall: 27 GS, 16-4, 3.70 ERA, 57 BB, 98 Ks
- Key stat: 1 ER or fewer in 8 straight starts
- Key stat: 12-0 in his last 16 starts
- At Yankee Stadium
- 2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 3.86 ERA Career: 1 GS, 0-1, 3.86 ERA
- 2011: 14 GS, 8-2, 4.11 ERA Career: 18 GS, 8-3, 4.19 ERA
- Against this opponent
- 2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 3.86 Career: 3 GS, 1-2, 6.00 ERA
- 2011: N/A Career: 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA
- Loves to face.: Alex Rodriguez 1-for-6
Hates to face: Derek Jeter 4-for-10
- Loves to face: Austin Jackson 0-for-1
Hates to face: Wilson Betemit 1-for-2
- Game breakdown
- Why he'll win: Has been the best starter in the Majors since Aug. 20.
- Why he'll win: No one has beaten him since the All-Star break.
- Pitcher beware: Opponents hitting .374 when they put the first pitch in play.
- Pitcher beware: Has struggled against No. 4 hitters (.324 batting average, four home runs).
- Bottom line: Solid as a rock
- Bottom line: Confident rookie
"One thing I see is confidence, the way he does it on the mound," Nova said of Pettitte, who retired from a 16-year career last winter. "He has so much confidence in himself and a lot of concentration. That's the thing I have to do."
If Nova can indeed channel Pettitte in Game 1 Saturday, he will go a long way toward vindicating Yankees manager Joe Girardi's faith in a pitcher who -- at this time last year -- was only just beginning to shove his way into the organization's long-term plans.
Twelve months after missing out on the playoff roster during his rookie season, Nova enters this October as the team's clear-cut No. 2 starter. Jockeying all summer for rotation position with fellow starters Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett -- all of whom made cases to be the No. 2 starter at various times this season -- Nova ultimately won the assignment on the basis of consistency.
Since returning from a Minor League assignment in late July -- the result of a roster crunch, not a lack of performance -- Nova has won eight games, lost three and posted a 3.18 ERA, allowing more than four runs in a start just once. He was even better at home during that stretch, going 4-0 with a 2.91 ERA in five Yankee Stadium starts.
"It's just been the maturation of him that's gotten him to this point," Girardi said, referencing Nova's brief trip to the Minors. "It would have been easy for him to storm out or to talk to his buddies and tell them how unhappy he was, and I never heard anything. I never heard a word about his displeasure with anything that we did. He just went to work."
And here he is. A self-described "family guy," Nova smiled and laughed on Friday and at one point grew somber, dedicating his season to his grandfather, who passed away last year. Nova credited Burnett for helping him develop his mound presence. He credited himself for a confidence rarely found in 24-year-old pitchers.
Not since his first big league start, Nova said, has he felt even the least bit nervous on the mound. Nova feels so confident entering Game 2, in fact, that he openly discussed his proactive plan for battling Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Detroit's foremost power threat and one of baseball's top overall hitters.
"I'm going to try to be aggressive with him," Nova said, "and try to take him out as quickly as possible."
At the least, Nova will have unfamiliarity on his side. Facing the Tigers once in relief last season and not at all this year, Nova has brief histories with only a handful of Detroit's batters. He induced Cabrera to ground out in their only career meeting. He retired Austin Jackson on a flyout. He allowed a hit to Magglio Ordonez.
Those at-bats all occurred during Nova's big league debut last May, one of the few instances in which he admits he was nervous. They occurred long before Nova began making his massive improvements on the mound, transforming from a virtual non-prospect into the team's No. 2 starter.
His original Game 2 assignment earned him comparisons to Pettitte, who holds Major League records for postseason starts (42), innings (263) and victories (19, with five of them coming in series-clinching games). For the better part of two decades, Pettitte set a big league standard with his quiet confidence on the mound.
Nova at least has the self-assurance part down pat.
"I've always been like that," Nova said. "I have so much confidence in myself. I'd like to be like that for my whole life."