ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Ivan Nova used the word "devastated,'' and he looked the part.
After the 27-year-old righthander was removed from Saturday night's game against the Rays with discomfort in his right elbow, an MRI taken that night showed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow, which likely will require season-ending surgery.
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"It's hard,'' a somber Nova said in the Yankees' clubhouse Sunday. "I don't even know what to tell you guys. I'm so sad right now that I'm not going to be pitching. It hurts. But God is real big and He's not going to forget me. So I have to keep working hard and try to get back as soon as possible.''
Said Joe Girardi: "It's not the news you want. It's really unfortunate. It's a guy we were obviously counting on pretty heavily this year.''
Nova, who was placed on the disabled list Sunday morning and will be examined Monday in New York by team physician Chris Ahmad, said he has not been told what will be next for him beyond that evaluation. Tommy John surgery seems likely, however.
"Usually when you have that [the tear], it eventually leads to that,'' Girardi said.
Candidates to assume Nova's rotation spot who currently are on the big-league roster are lefthander Vidal Nuño -- who threw five shutout innings Sunday in the Yankees' 5-1, 12-inning victory over the Rays -- and righthanders Adam Warren and David Phelps.
Despite pitching well in spring training, the three were beaten out by Michael Pineda in the battle for the fifth-starter job. Girardi said it wouldn't be too hard to stretch out Warren and Phelps, both of whom have done a good job out of the bullpen since the regular season began.
But because they have, the Yankees might turn to an old friend at Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre for rotation help. Righthander Alfredo Aceves, 31, who went 14-1 with a 3.21 ERA for the club from 2008-10, starting five times, was signed on the second-to-last day of camp and pitched five scoreless innings for Scranton on Friday in his first start of the season.
"He's obviously a guy that has pitched in the big leagues and has pitched here and had success here,'' Girardi said. "I don't know if he'll be in the conversation, but we'll sit down and talk about it [Monday].''
Nova said he felt a "pop'' on his second pitch to Evan Longoria in the fifth inning of Saturday night's 16-1 loss. Bench coach Tony Peña saw Nova shake his arm after the pitch and alerted Girardi, who soon removed him from the game.
The news was a crushing setback for Nova, who after a terrific spring training felt he was set to put his inconsistency, the bane of his career, behind him.
"Having a bad start makes me feel terrible because I want to pitch [well],'' said Nova, who fell to 2-2 with an 8.27 ERA after allowing eight runs and eight hits (four were home runs) in four innings-plus Saturday night. "But having an injury like the one I have right now, that is devastating. Not because of me but because of my family and friends. It hurts. A lot of people feel bad because of this, but I have to keep going."