Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova delivers a pitch against Mets in...

Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova delivers a pitch against Mets in the first inning of a Subway Series game at Yankee Stadium. (May 22, 2011) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- In spring training in 2011, Ivan Nova guaranteed he'd capture one of the two available spots in the back end of the Yankees' rotation.

"I'm fighting for it to the end, and I'm going to win,'' Nova said one March day in Dunedin, Fla., after getting hit hard.

The righthander did win a spot, then put together a season that had him in the thick of the AL Rookie of the Year race, going 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. He was 12-0, 3.25 in his last 16 starts.

This year, a spot in the rotation is a near-certainty, but the 25-year-old is making no pronouncements about where he fits in it. "I just want to be in the rotation," Nova said Friday morning. "I don't mind if I'm No. 1, 2, 3 or 5, I don't care. I just want to be in the rotation and win games . . . I have to go out there and fight for my spot."

Nova was a revelation in 2011, but it didn't start that way. "I don't want to have another slow start like last year," said Nova, who was 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA after three starts and a relief outing. "I have to be ready soon."

He has been in Tampa for a couple of weeks with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who praised him Thursday, saying he is "ahead of schedule." Nova said he's been working on "everything," his changeup in particular. "It wasn't too good last year,'' he said, "so we have to make it better."

Nova, who left ALDS Game 5 after two innings with a Grade 1 flexor strain in his right forearm, said he's "100 percent."

"I have to keep working hard," Nova said. "I just want to go out there and do my job. I don't have any numbers in mind right now. We're going to start spring training now and hopefully we can have a really good season again . . . I hope we can win the World Series this year."

Extra basesJoba Chamberlain threw his fourth half-mound session and will throw three bullpen sessions from half-mounds next week when spring workouts officially begin. Chamberlain, recovering from Tommy John surgery in June, said he should be ready to throw full mound sessions the following week. "I've been very blessed not to have anything go wrong," he said of his rehab . . . Michael Pineda, who is 6-7 and weighs 280, said he is most comfortable pitching at 270 and plans to lose the 10 pounds during camp . . . Hideki Okajima, signed to a minor-league contract, failed his physical.

More Yankees headlines