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Ivan Nova confident he'll be in rotation

02/05/2013 12:27 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Ivan Nova is determined to turn it around in 2013 as a starting pitcher.(AP)
The due date for New York Yankees pitchers and catchers to report is seven days away, but a small group is already working out at the team's Minor League complex in Tampa, Fla. In addition to Derek Jeter continuing his rehab from a broken ankle, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Clay Rapada, David Robertson, Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral are all already present across the street from George M. Steinbrenner Field.

While Hughes is entrenched as the Yankees' No. 4 starter, Nova will be fighting for a rotation spot – if not a roster spot – throughout Spring Training. After a 16-win rookie season, Nova went 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 2012, including an eight-start run down the stretch in which he was 2-4 with a 7.87 ERA.

Nova will be competing with David Phelps. Never lacking confidence, Nova told reporters outside the complex on Tuesday he has no doubt he's going to be in the rotation.

"I'm going to be there," Nova said.

He'll have to out-pitch Phelps, who put up a 3.34 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 97 strikeouts over 99 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Right-hander Adam Warren, who had a strong finish down in Triple-A last season, is also expected to receive a long look.

• Michael Pineda graduated to half a mound last week in his rehab from shoulder surgery. Pineda threw roughly 25 pitches on Tuesday, another small step in a long process that the Yankees hope ends with Pineda making his pinstriped debut sometime after the All-Star break.

• The Yankees are contemplating an outfield switch, general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi said on Monday night at a benefit to support Yankees radio producer/engineer Carlos Silva's battle with cancer. Brett Gardner is back healthy and motivated after an elbow injury sidelined him for most of the 2012 season. Whether the Yankees flip-flop Gardner and Curtis Granderson from left to center field is another storyline to watch for the duration of the Grapefruit season.

"I guess it is something that we will talk about," Cashman said. "I don't know yet. Curtis Granderson is currently in center field. We also have Brett Gardner, who is also a center fielder playing left field."

Granderson has played 22 games in left field, but has exclusively patrolled center since 2007.

• Also discussed at the Hard Rock Cafe benefit was the catching situation. As Lou DiPietro reports, Girardi will be evaluating both numbers and intangibles when Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine make their respective cases.

"There is no formula for our catching right now, but we believe we have a group of guys who can get the job done," Girardi said. "It's easy to measure numbers, but sometimes what really gets overlooked is how many runs a catcher can save, and whether or not the pitchers enjoy throwing to them. We believe we have catchers who fit that, and they will be productive in their own way."

Cashman reiterated that Romine is probable for Triple-A – unless the promising backstop can surprise while proving he's over the back woes that stunted his development in 2012.

"Developmentally, Austin Romine should probably be in Triple-A, but that's not to say he can't come in and take this job if Joe and the evaluators say he's the best," Cashman added. "I'd say right now he's on the outside looking in, but it's not a situation that's never happened before."

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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