Nova now to provide long relief

Ivan Nova looked a little amused.

"I think it's the same," he said. "I don't really see the difference."

Nova, who was going to be the Yankees' Game 2 starter Saturday night, instead will be their first Game 1 reliever after Friday's ALDS opener against the Tigers was suspended by rain after an inning and a half with the score tied at 1.

For Nova, it really is almost exactly the same. He will warm up as if he were the starting pitcher, wait for the Yankees to bat in the bottom of the second, then pitch against the Tigers in the third inning in his first postseason appearance of any sort.

"It's not like they're going to throw me out there and not have time to warm up," he said. "I'll do all the stuff I usually do. So I don't see the difference."

Nova has been a cool customer all season. It's why he swore it won't be hard to control his emotions when he takes the mound Saturday.

"I don't think it's going to be too difficult," he said. "I had big games this year. It wasn't difficult to do. Why is it going to be difficult?"

That's either confidence or naivete. Which one it is will begin to be revealed when he faces Jhonny Peralta to lead off the third.

"I've always been like that," said Nova, 24. "That's one of the important things in myself -- I have so much confidence in myself. I've been like that for my whole life."

Perhaps that's how Nova went from a back-of-the-rotation guy at the start of the season and reluctant minor-leaguer in the middle to earning the No. 2 spot in the first round. And a start in ALDS Game 5 if the series goes that long.

"It all plays into it," manager Joe Girardi said of Nova, who went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA despite a midseason demotion to Triple-A when the Yankees had too many starters. "The year he's had. His ability to pitch when he got in trouble this year; he did a much better job than he did last year managing innings. That's important, especially in these types of games. You can't let one thing go wrong and then lose everything. You're going to go through some adversity. If you play long enough in the playoffs, you're going to go through some adversity. I think the way he handled it played an important role."

Nova, who has won his last 12 decisions, has limited experience from 2010 against the Tigers; the only Detroit players to have more than one at-bat against him are late-season imports Delmon Young and Wilson Betemit. The Yankees played the Tigers in the season-opening series and again in May, and not again until Friday night. Nova did not pitch in either of those series.

"We're a little concerned about that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We don't know a whole lot, other than what we see on tape, what the scouts say. We have all that information. But really, the hitters will have to get a little better feel for that when they get in the box. You can give guys reports. You never know how it's going to play out.

"We know he's very good. I think he won 16 games. Very impressive. You know what, when you get to postseason, you expect to see a real good pitcher every night. I wish we were a little more familiar with him, but we're not. That's all part of it. We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there. We're very impressed with him. The tapes I've looked at, he's very impressive. It's something our hitters will have to contend with."

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