You’re probably not wondering why the New York Yankees are likely to make another playoff appearance again this season. I mean, why not, since they have the highest payroll in the major leagues? But there will be October baseball in the Bronx largely due to Ivan Nova, a pitcher who only makes about $430,000 a season.
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On September 3, Nova quietly won his 15th game for New York. Since being promoted from Scranton-Wilkes Barre where he spent most of July, the 24-year-old Dominican has notched seven straight victories. Furthermore, the Yankees have won the last 12 games that Nova has taken the mound.
The bulk of New York’s starting rotation has been in disarray since opening day. CC Sabathia, who makes $23 million a year, has been decent unless he’s pitching against the Boston Red Sox. A.J. Burnett‘s $16 million salary has put Yankee GM Brian Cashman on the hot seat. Burnett is the biggest bust in New York since Carl Pavano. But Nova has been money in the bank, and probably the only reason the Yankees aren’t in a dogfight with the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League wildcard berth.
I’ve always thought that the Yankees coddled Nova too much, nitpicking about pitch counts and not allowing him to build up endurance. Good grief, the kid’s 6′-4″ and weighs 230 pounds. They’re doing the same thing with prize prospect Dellin Betances, and the 6′-8″ giant isn’t happy. Now that pitching coach Larry Rothschild has allowed Nova to stretch out his innings, Ivan has the confidence to throw all his assortment of pitches in game situations, not just in the bullpen. His mid-90s fastball is darting in and out, and his improved breaking pitch is ridiculous.
“I know I have tremendous stuff,” notes Ivan. “It was just a matter of putting things all together.”
Look, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have done all that’s been asked of them and more. They’ve been the glue to steady a boat that’s been taking on water. Phil Hughes has shown improvement. But the Yankees life expectancy in the postseason clearly depends on Nova’s continued success.
I know professional baseball is a business and the Yankees control Nova’s contract for many moons to come. But if the Steinbrenner brothers have as big a heart as their pop did, maybe they’ll stuff Ivan’s Christmas stocking with something other than coal. That would be a nice gesture for a youngster who basically saved the season.
Depth is another reason why the Yanks have hung around with the Red Sox. Although his defense is still a bit shaky, Eduardo Nunez has filled in with high marks for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. The Venezuelan has gotten some key hits and his speed has helped New York’s running game. And since Eric Chavez came off the DL July 26, he’s batting over .300 and continues to prove that he’s still a very good offensive player.
Unless the world champion Giants can orchestrate a last-moment surge, it will mark only the second time in six years that Orlando Cabrera won’t be playing in October. The Colombian veteran has accomplished that feat with five different teams.
Rumors are getting stronger that Ozzie Guillen will be leaving the South Side of Chicago for South Florida next season, even though he has a year left on his White Sox contract. Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria badly wants Ozzie to manage his team next season when the Fish inaugurate their new stadium in Little Havana. There have already been secret talks between the teams regarding compensation for Guillen’s services, but Loria better make sure such conversations are indirect and not a form of tampering. Ozzie, who has a home in Miami, seems fed up in Chicago and is pushing GM Kenny Williams for a long-term deal. Stay tuned, because this one could become ugly.