Sunday's game was not a bad one for Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP and 3 ER. If he had been pitching like this every time out, there would have been no shift to the bullpen and no move to Scranton. There would also have been no coming up for spot starts and waiting on tenterhooks to see if he'll stick in the Majors or be shuttled back to Scranton to the Yankees AAA affiliate.
No, if Ivan Nova had pitched like this, he would be safely ensconced in the fifth spot (or even the fourth spot given Phil Hughes's struggles) in the rotation. But he hasn't. Admittedly, it's unreasonable and a little unfair to expect that stat line from the back end of any but the best major league rotations but, too often in 2013, Ivan Nova has been far below that standard.
When he appeared on the scene in 2010 to make 7 starts and pitch to a 4.50 ERA, the ERA equivalent to a quality start, he raised some eyebrows. Not just because of his pitching repertoire but because of his bravado. When he threw up and in on Jose Bautista in August 2010, nearly starting a brawl, everyone sat up. Pitches from the neck up are never pleasant but Nova's message was clear: Rookie or not, he was not afraid and he was not going to be intimidated.
That is the Nova the Yankees need to see. Not the headhunting part but the "Here it is, hit it and, if you do, I'll get the next guy" mentality. The "I'm good enough to be here and I know it" attitude. He throws a fastball in the low to mid 90s and a curveball with a good 12 MPH separation. There is no question about the stuff, no question about Nova's faith in himself and no question about the Yankees need for him. Now, he just has to put it all together and be the long term answer that the Yankees need.