There is only one conclusion to draw from Ivan Nova’s performance on Wednesday night in Tampa: he is going to make the Opening Day roster, and most likely as the No. 4 starter. In bouncing back from his lone poor performance this spring, Nova pitched brilliantly by forging six hitless innings against the Orioles. He threw strikes, kept his fastball down, and even mixed in a slider, the latest addition to his repertoire. Nova recorded 11 of his 14 outs on ground balls, which is exactly the kind of ratio the Yankees would like to see this summer.
With Nova slotted in the fourth spot, that leaves only the No. 5 starter to be decided. The two right-handed veterans, Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon, will continue to fight for that honor, with the loser possibly heading to the bullpen, especially if the Yankees take the careful route and place Joba Chamberlain on the disabled list to start the season. (I don’t think Chamberlain’s oblique injury is all that serious, but the Yankees tend to be overly cautious when it comes to these things.) The Yankees could also open up a relief spot by releasing or trading Sergio Mitre, a possibility that has actually been rumored this spring despite Joe Girardi’s affinity for the former Marlin.
The other outside possibility for the bullpen is Romulo Sanchez, the ex-Pirate who is out of options. Sanchez has been wild this spring, but he has a live fastball that has impressed opposing scouts, and would almost certainly be claimed on waivers by someone. At 26, Sanchez is a lot younger than both Colon and Garcia, and more accustomed to pitching out of the pen.
Whatever happens with the 12-man staff, the Yankees at least appear to have some decent pitching options, more so than they appeared to have at the start of spring training…