SARASOTA, Fla. — Ivan Nova made things a bit easier for Yankees decision-makers Friday afternoon.
A day after CC Sabathia pitched reasonably well, Nova, who is competing with Sabathia for the job of fifth starter, was not good in an 11-10 loss in 10 innings to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.
“I put myself in a really bad position right now,” Nova said. “I didn’t help myself today.”
Though a stiff wind blowing out gave hitters an advantage, Nova — after a perfect first inning in which he struck out two batters — simply wasn’t sharp, allowing six runs (five earned) in 4 2⁄3 innings. The righthander, who brought a 4.05 ERA in four previous starts into the game, allowed six hits, including three home runs.
On Thursday night against the Rays, Sabathia, who had struggled in his previous two starts, allowed two runs in five innings.
“I don’t put any extra pressure because it’s CC,” said Nova, noting Sabathia’s career resume, which includes a 214-129 record. “You have to do your job out there. You pitch good, they’re maybe going to have a tough decision. If you pitch bad, it’s going to be easy for them.”
Joe Girardi, who before the game called the fifth-starter competition “the biggest story in camp right now,” said afterward that the competition is not over.
“We’re still evaluating, and we’ve talked about we’re going to evaluate all the way through,” Girardi said, adding that each pitcher has one more start. “That’s the only fair way to do it.”
Given a somewhat close competition, it seems a remote possibility that the Yankees would choose to stick Sabathia, who has no career regular-season relief appearances, in the bullpen and take Nova for the rotation. Nova, who has seven career relief appearances but none since 2013, appears destined to start the season as a reliever.
“I’m not thinking about the bullpen yet,” he said. “I have one more start. Let’s see what happens after that.”
The more Nova talked, though, the more he sounded like a player who had lost a competition. “In this position, especially when you’re competing for one spot in the rotation, it’s more frustrating because you know it’s a tight race,” he said. “It’s a really tight competition, but you have to go out and do your job.”
Notes & quotes: Jacoby Ellsbury (right wrist) took full on-field batting practice for a second straight day and Girardi said the centerfielder should be back in the lineup Sunday. “Today I was taking my normal swing,” Ellsbury told reporters in Tampa afterward . . . Michael Pineda pitched five scoreless innings and allowed two hits for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Double-A Trenton in Tampa. He struck out four and walked one . . . Rob Refsnyder, whom few opposing team scouts see as having a big-league position, took a ground ball off his face Friday while playing third. He left the game but was OK.