This summer, Nova has become the young ace that the Yankees have wanted for a long time, the kind of pitcher Phil Hughes was supposed to be and the kind that C.C. Sabathia once was. He is 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA, and his three-hit shutout over Baltimore on Saturday showed just how good he has become.
The Yankees, however, let him get away. They signed Nova out of the Dominican Republic in 2004. He pitched for several years in the low minors with mixed success but the Yankees didn't protect him on their 40-man roster. It is unclear if they didn't see him as a top-flight prospect or if they didn't think another team would select him in the Rule 5 draft. Whatever the Yankees' thinking, the San Diego Padres selected him in December 2008.
For the Padres to keep Nova, they had to put him on their 25-man roster for the entire 2009 season. Whether they would do so depended, in large part, on how he did in spring training. The Padres were not a good team that year so his chances of sticking seemed good. Fortunately for the Yankees, Nova wasn't ready for prime time and bombed in spring training (8 earned runs in 8.2 innings). The Padres returned him to the Yankees in March 2009 and he made his debut in the Bronx a year later.