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Ivan Nova confident he will return to the Yankees rotation

Ivan Nova talks with reporters and signs autographs

Ivan Nova talks with reporters and signs autographs for fans after practice. (Feb 5, 2013) Credit: Carrie Pratt

TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't long into the conversation before Ivan Nova characterized his 2012 as "a bad year."

Few would disagree with the assessment.

Nova, coming off a 2011 in which he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA, went 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA last season.

The year started well, but after a 6-2 win over the Red Sox April 20 gave him a 3-0 record and his 15th consecutive regular-season win, Nova allowed five or more earned runs in five of his next seven starts.

The righthander did finish the first half 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA, but it blew apart after the All-Star break -- 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in eight starts before landing on the DL with right rotator cuff inflammation. Nova ended up 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA in the second half.

"Frustrating," Nova said.

And now the 26-year-old finds himself entering spring training trying to hold off David Phelps for the fifth spot in the rotation. But the confidence, which Nova admitted wavered last year -- especially in the second half -- has returned.

Nova said he has no doubt "I'm going to be there" in the rotation and he doesn't feel he has anything to prove to the Yankees, the latter something that may be up to debate among the team's hierarchy.

"They saw what I got," he said. "I had a bad year last year but I had a good one before that one. I think they know that. I just have to be healthy and do my job. I don't think I have anything to prove."

Almost unilaterally the feeling in the organization was the pitcher's issues weren't with his stuff, it was "above the shoulders." By and large Nova, who has been working out at the complex here for a week-and-a-half, agrees. He said the problems weren't with his repertoire; it's avoiding the same mistakes in the same situations, maintaining the focus that helped him succeed in 2011.

"I know what I have in my hands," Nova said of why he is as confident as ever. "I know what I got and I know what I can do, so I just have to do it."

Notes & quotes: Derek Jeter, who has been doing on-field work for a little over a week, took 61 grounders on the infield grass. Before doing so, he played catch and long tossed in the outfield -- believed to be the first time he's done so in his rehab from an ankle injury -- for 12 minutes . . . Garden City High graduate Matt Daley, a righty who signed last offseason with the Yankees but spent the year rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, has been working at the complex and is expected to compete for a bullpen spot.

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