TAMPA, Fla. — Poor performances led to Ivan Nova finishing the 2015 season in the Yankees’ bullpen.
He made it clear Thursday that he has no desire to be there this season.
“I’m a starting pitcher, I’m not a reliever,” Nova said after a morning workout at the team’s minor-league complex. “But it’s their decision, and whatever they tell me to do, that’s what I gotta do.”
The affable Nova, 29, coming off Tommy John surgery, had his worst season in 2015, going 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA. He lost his spot in the rotation in September, and regaining it will be a challenge.
The righthander enters spring training behind Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia on the depth chart and, barring an injury to one of those five, the bullpen likely will be his destination. “Whatever they decide to do is what we’re going to do,” Nova said. “You’re always competing. That’s one of the exciting parts. That’s what I like. To compete.”
And, most important, to pitch well, something that Nova rarely has done consistently as a Yankee.
“My career hasn’t been like a lot of people maybe wanted it to be, having a good year every year,” said Nova, 46-33 with a 4.33 ERA in his six seasons with the Yankees. “I had some good moments, some bad moments. But like I said, that’s in the past. I feel good enough to compete and good enough to do a good job.”
Although it’s common for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery to struggle in their first year back, Nova last season insisted that had nothing to do with his situation. He repeated that Thursday.
“Whatever happened last year, it wasn’t because of the Tommy John,” said Nova, who signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2004 and made his big-league debut in May 2010. “I felt good the whole time. I just didn’t pitch good.”
Besides pride, Nova, 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 2013 before hurting his elbow early in 2014, has a financial incentive to do well. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
“Whatever they decide to do with me, I think the main thing to do is help the team win games, that’s what matters,” Nova said. “We want a championship. And I’m a free agent after this year . . . If I leave the Yankees one day — hopefully I never leave the Yankees — but if I leave the Yankees one day, I want to leave with a championship. That’s the goal.”
Notes & quotes: The Yankees hired Armando Galarraga as a minor-league pitching instructor. Galarraga is best known for missing out on a perfect game for the Tigers in 2010 when first-base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call that would have been the 27th out against the Indians. Galarraga, 34, is likely to be assigned to one of the club’s two GCL teams . . . Tanaka is expected at the minor-league complex Friday.