In the heat of a pennant race, under immense scrutiny, against the most potent lineup in baseball -- these are the conditions under which Ivan Nova must attempt to deliver a bounce-back start.
And the Yankees righthander wouldn't have it any other way.
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"Just how I like it," Nova said Sunday night. "I'm not afraid to pitch in big games."
Nova will be reinserted into the starting rotation Wednesday against the Blue Jays, manager Joe Girardi said before Sunday night's game against the Mets. He will replace Masahiro Tanaka, who has a strained right hamstring.
Nova's last start was his worst of the season. In 12/3 innings against Toronto on Sept. 12, he surrendered six runs and seven hits. It prompted Girardi to skip his turn in the rotation and demote him to a bullpen role.
"He's been through it before," Girardi said. "We've told him he's going down, and he came back and was lights out."
As far as Nova is concerned, it's a mental thing. The 28-year-old threw a side session Saturday, and said his recent struggles -- he posted a 3.10 ERA through his first seven starts, compared with a 7.46 ERA in his last seven -- are not caused by mechanical problems.
"I think it's all in the mind," he said. "As long as my mind's set, I should be ready to go."
In that sense, 10 days off in between starts should benefit him. "I think that helps," Nova said. "After that last start that I had, I think a little time off can help a lot."
Adam Warren and Luis Severino are scheduled to pitch the first two games of the series at Rogers Centre on Monday night and Tuesday, respectively, and were sent ahead of the team to Toronto on Sunday.
"With us probably getting in at 4 or 5 in the morning," Girardi said, "we thought it would be for their benefit."