Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws during the first inning...

Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova throws during the first inning of an exhibition game against the Washington Nationals, Monday, March 3, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall

It was, of course, just a spring training outing.

Still, Ivan Nova's three-inning performance in Monday's 4-2 victory over the Nationals stood out.

The righthander, slotted to start the season as the Yankees' No. 3 or 4 starter, did not allow a hit or a walk and struck out four. Of Nova's 36 pitches, 31 were strikes, and quite a few were a nasty, biting curveball.

"Today's outing was beyond impressive," catcher Brian McCann said. "Good things are going to come for him, for sure . . . He's got all the makeup, all the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter."

Nova, 27, though virtually guaranteed a spot, hasn't approached spring training that way and is focused on rectifying what has been the bane of his professional career to this point: lack of consistency.

"I want to be a pitcher that the team can trust every five days," he said. "I want to do my job every five days and not be on the line to go back down [to the minors]. I want to be consistent. That's one of the goals."

Quarterback Mark Sanchez's chances of suiting up with the Jets this season aren't all that much better than Alex Rodriguez's with the Yankees.

But Jets coach Rex Ryan, a friend of Girardi's who watched Monday's game from seats next to the Yankees' dugout, isn't ready to say that.

"We'll just let that play out and see what happens," Ryan told a group of reporters during the game. "But it's nothing I'm going to make a comment on."

Sanchez, who has a $13.1-million salary-cap charge, is likely to be released or traded later this month when a $2-million roster bonus is due.

As for the Jets' presumed quarterback, Geno Smith, Ryan had nothing but praise.

"I really like where he left off," he said before citing Smith's final month. "I think if he could play that way, we're going to be tough to beat."

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