LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The race Joe Girardi a week ago said was “the biggest story in camp right now” could be called as soon as Thursday.
And Ivan Nova, whom the Yankees have insisted is being given equal consideration for the fifth starter’s job along with CC Sabathia, did his part Wednesday to make the club’s call a difficult one.
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In his final start of the spring Nova allowed two hits over six shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over the Braves at Champion Stadium. Nova, who walked one and struck out two, finished the spring with a 4.12 ERA in six starts, compared 5.51 ERA in five starts for Sabathia.
“Today was great,” Nova said. “That’s the way I want to pitch. It was a good thing I didn’t carry over what happened last time.”
That would be his start last Friday against the Orioles when he allowed six runs (five earned) and six hits, including three homers, over 4 2⁄3 innings.
Though the prevailing thought outside the organization has been the 35-year-old Sabathia was a near lock for the spot, Girardi and GM Brian Cashman have maintained that is not the case.
“I think they’ve taken two different paths,” Cashman told reporters in Tampa Wednesday morning before traveling here to watch Nova. “Nova pitched well early and not as well late and CC pitched poorly early and better late. No one decided to grab it and hold it, so it’s forcing us to make a final call at the end.”
Neither Sabathia nor Nova has much experience in the bullpen — Sabathia has never relieved in the regular season and Nova has seven career relief appearances but none since 2013 — but the loser of the competition will be put in that role, Girardi said.
Nova seemed to indicate he understands when the career resumes are compared, Wednesday’s performance aside, that person may still not be him.
“Remember, I’m not fighting against a guy with one or two years in his career,” Nova said. “CC Sabathia has a lot of history. It’s not an easy fight. I think I did my part. Hopefully I win this bout.”
Although all reports on RHP Masahiro Tanaka’s Tuesday outing were good, Girardi said he still wasn’t prepared to name him the Opening Day starter. However, that still appears likely to happen . . . RHP Kirby Yates struck out two in a perfect ninth and has not allowed a run in seven spring outings . . . RHP Dellin Betances replaced Andrew Miller in the seventh and struck out the side, giving him seven scoreless outings this spring.