That’s Scranton Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova.
The now 24-year-old righthander would routinely tell Thunder reporters after stellar starts that — to paraphrase — the best was yet to come. And, well…he was right. Nova wasn’t long for Waterfront Park, promoted to Scranton midway through the 2009 season after posting a 5-4 record and 2.36 in 12 starts.
Before he had even thrown a single pitch in Trenton though, Nova was a name to watch, as he’d been returned by the San Diego Padres after failing to stick following a Rule 5 Draft selection. That selection seemingly came out of nowhere, but it became quickly apparent why the Padres had shown an interest in him.
“It was cool in Trenton,” Nova said.
“I had a good time in Trenton. We had a tremendous manager down there in Tony Franklin and a tremendous pitching coach. It was good to be there.”
Nova started the 2010 season in Scranton and seemed destined to put PNC Field behind him quickly as well, going 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 23 starts before getting called up to the big leagues for good in August. Well, almost for good…
Despite a winning record (8-4), improved ERA from last season (4.12 compared to 4.50) and improvement in recent outings, the Yankees chose to option their promising young pitcher to Triple-A Scranton. While not bitter about the move, it’s safe to say Nova was more than disappointed in it.
“It would be difficult for anybody, especially for a young guy,” he said. “I was enjoying my time in the big leagues, but the decision that I had to come back down to Triple-A, it was kind of hard. But I’m just trying to put that away and focus on baseball and try to do my job and hopefully get back to the big leagues.”
There is somewhat of an upside to the move, difficult as it may to be see for Nova, in that getting innings as a starter in Triple-A seems preferable to him as opposed to a move to the bullpen at any level.
“I’m going to have the chance to keep working on my pitches and working on my command,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to be in the bullpen in the big leagues, so I’d rather be in Triple-A starting. They made the decision, and I’ve just got to accept it one way or the other and keep working hard and find my way back.”
The way back shouldn’t be a long one for the Dominican-born man they call “Super Nova.” Triple-A has been a breeze for him, and he doesn’t seem to think this stint — however long it may be — will be any different.
“I’ve been here before, and I know how it goes here,” Nova said.
“I’m not going to say it’s going to be hard, because it’s not going to be hard after being in the big leagues. But they do have really good hitters down here too. You can’t get too comfortable. You were pitching in the big leagues, and now you’re going to do something different in the minor leagues? You’ve got to keep working and doing the same thing and pitch better than how I was pitching in the big leagues.”
Nova will get his first chance to do just that when he takes the ball for manager Dave Miley on Thursday night in Scranton, when the Yankees are slated to host the Buffalo Bisons.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com