Ivan Nova and the Yankees' intended starting nine dominated the Orioles on Wednesday night, but it was Nova's near-perfect outing that was the biggest story in the Yanks' 10-0 win.
R - Derek Jeter (SS)
S - Nick Swisher (RF)
S - Mark Teixeira (1B)
R - Alex Rodriguez (3B)
L - Robinson Cano (2B)
S - Jorge Posada (DH)
L - Curtis Granderson (CF)
R - Russell Martin (C)
L - Brett Gardner (LF)
Pitchers (IP): Ivan Nova (6), Mariano Rivera (1), Mark Prior (1), David Robertson (1)
Subs: Eric Chavez (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Ramiro Peña (SS), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jesus Montero (C), Jordan Parraz (RF), Justin Maxwell (CF), Eduardo Nuñez (RF), Jose Gil (PR)
Formidable Opponents: Six of the Orioles' regulars plus an inning of Mike Gonzalez.
Big Hits: A pair of doubles by Mark Teixeira (2-for-2, BB, HBP), Alex Rodriguez's third home run of the spring (his only hit in four trips), and a long, opposite-field double by Eric Chavez in his only at-bat. Jorge Posada had an RBI single and two walks in four trips. Nick Swisher had two singles in four trips, driving in two, and hurdled the waist-high fence around the bullpen in the fruitless pursuit of a foul ball. Derek Jeter singled and walked in four trips.
Who Pitched Well: Ivan Nova hit Robert Andino to start the game, then worked six hitless, walkless innings, striking out four, the only other runner reaching on an Alex Rodriguez error in the fourth. Of the 18 outs he recorded, just three came in the air, and he faced just one over the minimum, erasing Andino with a double-play (nicely turned by Jeter, Cano, and Teixeira) in the first. Nova was only scheduled for five innings, but was so efficient (69 percent of his pitches were strikes) he was left in for a sixth, then had to burn off 15 more pitches in the bullpen to get up to his intended pitch count. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about all of that is that Nova did it with a a revamped slider/cutter that he used last night for the first time this spring in lieu of a curve he had trouble controlling (a wild curve was what hit Andino). That revamped pitch, which moves down and away from lefties/in to righties, won't always be as effective, but if Nova has found a new weapon, the outlook for his season, if not his career, has improved dramatically.
Altogether, just four Orioles reached base in this game and no two reached by the same method. Andino was plunked by Nova. Adam Jones reached on Rodriguez's error. Vlad Guerrero doubled off Mariano Rivera. Mark Prior walked Mark Reynolds. That's it. David Robertson, who pitched a perfect ninth, was the only reliever to strike out a batter, but as a group the four Yankee pitchers were excellent. Nova's performance, however, might well prove to be the best by any Yankee this spring.
Rotation Battle: With those six scoreless frames, Ivan Nova dropped his spring ERA to 1.29 and his WHIP to 0.71. He'll likely get just two more starts this spring. If not for the fact that he's the only of the four remaining contestants who can be optioned to the minors at the end of camp, I'd say he just sewed up a rotation spot tonight. Andrew Brackman was optioned to Triple-A having made just two game appearances in the wake of an early spring groin injury.
Ouchies: Mark Teixeira was hit in the hands by a pitch, but had no lingering discomfort. It seems Boone Logan's early velocity issues and recent absence stemmed from "elbow fatigue." He's scheduled to pitch in Thursday night's game. An MRI confirmed that Joba Chamberlain has a strained oblique, but Joba claims he's uninhibited by it. He'll play catch on Thursday and evaluate from there. Sergio Mitre (oblique) threw a light side session (no pun intended). Russell Martin says his knee is no longer a concern and that he has stopped wearing the small brace he had on the knee in his first several games this spring.
Oopsies: The only two men to reach base against Ivan Nova came via a leadoff hit-by-pitch and an Alex Rodriguez fielding error on a ball that took a bad hop and hit him in the face. Nick Swisher got caught off third base on a ground ball to the third baseman in the bottom of the first for what was both the first out of the inning and the first half of a 5-5-3 (or 5u-3, if you prefer) double play.
Other: The Yankees made another round of cuts on Wednesday, optioning Kevin Russo, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, and Andrew Brackman to Triple-A, and Steve Garrison and Ryan Pope to Double-A. Those assignments might change (Mesa has never played in Double-A and would be skipping it if he sticks in Triple-A). The big news there is Brackman getting removed from the rotation competition and being the first of the Killer Bs to be removed from camp. Laird, who excited Steve as a possible four-corner sub coming into camp, just didn't hit, going 2-for-19. The Yankees also sent a representative to see Kevin Millwood throw on Wednesday, but Milwood is still looking for a major league deal, and after watching him throw 85-mile-per-hour fastballs, the Yankees still won't give him one.
Finally, Star-Ledger beat reporter and friend of the Bible Marc Carig checked with the pitcher at my request and confirmed that there is a tilde in Manny Bañuelos's last name.
Next: The Rays play an away game in Tampa. Phil Hughes gets the 7:05 start. The game will not be televised.