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The Mystery of Ivan Nova

How will Nova pitch when he finally returns?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So far, in only five big league seasons, Ivan Nova has turned in a very inconsistent career; a Jekyll and Hyde pitcher, you might say. Nova has had flashes of brilliance in his career like his 2011 campaign, his most successful season, where he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA, finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting. Nova has also had ugly years like his 2012 campaign where he pitched to a 5.02, ERA, and last season where he pitched himself to a 8.27 ERA on his way to Tommy John surgery. Nova is scheduled to return in May or June of next season, but when he does return, which Nova will we get?

When Nova returns to a big league mound, it is tough to say who will be in the Yankees rotation and if there will be any room for him. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda both have health concerns, but if they stay away from the injury bug and are pitching up to their capabilities, they will be remaining in the rotation. A free agent starter or two will have a spot as well, and it may be Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel (meh), or a big name like Max Scherzer. One has to assume that if healthy CC Sabathia will also have a spot in the rotation, and he will be given plenty of opportunities to keep it regardless of how he pitches, and Shane Greene deserves a spot by how he pitched last season. Although Greene is the most likely candidate to be booted for Nova, especially if Greene struggles in his sophomore year. If Nova does have a spot to fill in his return, it tough to say how he will fare.

We can hope that Nova isn't completely affected by his surgery, and can return to form; hopefully to the form that made people around the league take notice. Of course that is always tough to predict, especially coming off major surgery. Pineda has had his own surgery, and he came back pitching and looking like a top of the rotation pitcher last season. The same goes for Adam Wainwright a few years ago, and the same can be said for a few pitchers, but when coming back from major surgery, it's always tough to say what to expect. Nova will no doubt be kept an eye on, perhaps even have an innings limit imposed on him, but if right, Nova can be a huge boost to the rotation.

Nova will be 28 years old when he returns, hopefully hitting his prime and ready to take it to the next level of his career. The Yankees still have two years left of control on Nova, and they will be using the next two years to determine whether to sign Nova to an extension. Fangraphs has Nova returning and pitching to a tune of 4.20 ERA with about 150 innings logged in, which wouldn't be terrible, and would be in line with a number 4 starter. Nova may get a pass since he will be returning from major surgery, and will be expected to blossom even more in 2016.

Nova has been a frustrating pitcher to watch since he has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the league, especially with the filthy stuff he has shown in the past. It will be interesting to see how he looks when he returns and if the Yankees consider locking him up.