BRADENTON, Fla. — Like many players who leave the Yankees, Ivan Nova chose a different look with his new team.
Nova, traded to the Pirates minutes before last season’s trade deadline in exchange for minor-league outfielder Tito Polo and minor-league pitcher Stephen Tarpley, took the mound against his former team Monday afternoon with a slightly unkempt beard and a blond head of hair.
“Trying to have fun now that I can do that,” Nova said with a smile. “Something different.”
For the longest time, the Yankees’ way was all the 30-year-old knew, having been signed as an amateur free agent by the club on July 15, 2004.
It is not a stretch to say the righthander grew up with the Yankees.
“Facing them the first time, I have a lot of emotion in the beginning of the game, a little pumped up,” Nova said. “I’m not going to lie, felt a lot of emotion when I saw all my teammates there.”
Nova allowed an unearned run — the result of two errors he committed in the third inning — and two hits over three innings. Nova, whose hand was wrapped in ice after taking Brett Gardner’s comebacker in the third off his right hand, struck out two.
Nova had his moments with the Yankees, who were not interested in signing him this offseason, such as 2011 when he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. But he was otherwise inconsistent, going 53-39 but with a 4.41 ERA in seven seasons. He was 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA last year when he was traded to the Pirates, with whom he seemed to find something, going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA. The Pirates brought him back on a three-year, $26-million free- agent contract.
“I knew they had to make a decision on me,” Nova said of the Yankees’ choice to trade him. “There was a lot of new guys coming up and they wanted to give them an opportunity. I understood that part. I think it worked out well.”