Joe Girardi has a "problem" with Ivan Nova.
"Until I see otherwise, no one can convince me that Girardi doesn't like this kid," my dad said last Saturday. "He pulls this kid out the moment he makes a mistake. Nova will never build confidence that way."
Kudos for me for being wise enough to write this down when my dad said it as we spoke over the phone. I "somewhat" agreed with his take on Nova, but I also defended Girardi's quick pull of the trigger on this kid, and I sensed that in a game that Nova would fall apart, I'd be able to use this quote of my dad's as part of my defense.
In last night's 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Nova was terrible. He lacked location on his pitches, pitching low fastballs and sliders into the dirt. He also threw wild pitches and more balls than strikes. In 4.1 innings, he walked 5 batters and earned all 5 of the Rangers' runs. Just not a good start at all, and you have to wonder if this kid is going to be able to give the Yankees needed innings down the stretch.
Now, last night's meltdown was different from what my dad was referring to. His argument was that in Nova's starts where he pitches really well in the beginning and falls flat later, Girardi doesn't give him a chance to pull himself out like he would if say, AJ Burnett were struggling. Well, last night, Nova was terrible from beginning to end, and I'm sure that as my dad watched this game, he too probably cheered when Nova was pulled in the 5th.
But what was apparent in last night's game, and all of his other starts where he's fared better, is Nova's lack of adjustment. And by adjustment, I'm talking on 2 fronts: 1) the lack of adjustment in his pitches, and 2) the lack of adjustment in his attitude. Is it just me or does anyone else see that Nova completely shuts himself down mentally when he's struggling? You see it in his body language and it's pretty much written all over his face. This kid can pitch, and for me, there's no reason why he can't rebound when he struggles. But he fails to pull himself together and settle down enough to execute the pitch he wants. And this is why I defend Girardi, because I think he sees this and does what he has to do to minimize the damage. You, like my dad, can argue that Nova will never build confidence if he's not allowed to battle through his struggles. I'd argue that Nova's confidence is his problem to deal with, not Girardi's.
On a brighter note, the bullpen did a pretty good job. David Robertson pitched a decent 5th in relief of Nova, although two wild pitches allowed Texas' Elvus Andrus to score. Boon Logan finally made it through an inning without giving up a run. And Lance Pendleton, who was brought up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill in the roster spot for Phil Hughes, pitched a spotless 7 through 9 with 2 strikeouts.
I like Ivan Nova. I said that he would be part of the starting rotation back in February. He's that good. But he has to learn to make adjustments when he's struggling. Freddy Garcia will pitch his first start today, weather permitting. He has yet to prove what he'll bring to the table in 2011. Bartolo Colon seems like a pitcher reinvented, and has now taken Hughes' slot in the rotation as he is on the DL with a "dead" arm. If Garcia bodes as well as Colon has, and if the two give the Yankees strong starts down the stretch, it will be Nova heading back to the minors if the Yankees do indeed make a trade for a starting pitcher.
Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper