PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Barring injury, Ivan Nova seems destined to be the swingman for the Yankees’ deep staff, a flexible asset for either the rotation or bullpen. And if Nova keeps pitching like he did Wednesday against the Mets, he’s a great safety net to have.
Nova allowed three hits in three scoreless innings, with a walk and strikeout, as he attempts to stay in the running for a starting job. At this point, it’s mostly about tuning his sinker and refining his curveball, which Nova was pleased with after Wednesday’s performance.
“The way I feel, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I do right now,” Nova said. “I’ve just got to stay positive and keep working.”
In Nova’s mind, he’s spent the past two years getting back to where he was before the Tommy John surgery abruptly ended his 2014 season. But with the rotation currently full — the Yankees prefer CC Sabathia in a starting role — Nova is blocked from that route. He’ll still remain in the rotation, however, until the Yankees are forced to eventually prep him with a few relief appearances.
“I think we’ll do that stuff in the event that it looks like he’s not going to qualify [for the rotation],” Brian Cashman said before the Yankees and Mets tied at 4 in 10 innings at Tradition Field. “But right now, that’s not something that we’ve talked about. Those are the types of things you do over the last 10 days of camp.”
Learning curve for Kaprielian
The road to the majors can be bumpy, even for first-round picks like James Kaprielian, who got cuffed around a bit by the Mets in his second Grapefruit League outing. Kaprielian, selected 16th overall by the Yankees last summer, allowed four hits and two runs in 1 2⁄3 innings.
Kaprielian felt he “spun it too much” — relying more on his breaking pitches than his mid-90s fastball — and got burned as a result.
“I want to keep my confidence, but these are great hitters,” Kaprielian said. “It was a good experience for me and I’ll work on things this week.”
Starlin Castro, who was forced to skip the two-game trip to the state’s East Coast because of a root canal, is expected to play shortstop Thursday when the Yankees return to Steinbrenner Field . . . Kyle Higashioka and Sebastian Valle each homered in the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied from a 4-2 deficit.