During the offseason, there's typically a general lack of information available about players who are rehabbing injuries, and this offseason has been no different. Although we've heard numerous statements from CC Sabathia saying that his knee is fine, it took months before we heard anything about Carlos Beltran's elbow or how Masahiro Tanaka's elbow is feeling as he prepares for spring training. Since he's been out of commission the longest, I've been most curious to hear about how Ivan Nova is doing, and we finally have an update. Nova spoke to reporters outside of the Yankees' training complex on Tuesday and said that he was "feeling great." All signs indicate that his rehab is right on track, so what can the Yankees expect from Nova this season?
Nova had Tommy John surgery in April 2014 and it takes the average pitcher about 12-15 months until they are ready to return to game action. When asked when he would return, Nova said he didn't know. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild also avoided giving any sort of timetable, and simply said that he first needed to progress through a series of steps. Since he's only throwing on level ground at the moment, the soonest Nova might be ready to return could be late May or June. He'll need to face live batters and get through some minor league starts first, unless he somehow is ready to pitch in spring training games.
There's no way of predicting how Nova will pitch when he's done with the rehab process. Since breaking into the majors in 2010, Nova's performance level has been all over the place. He was actually off to a very rocky start last season before his elbow blew out (20.2 IP, 8.27 ERA, 6.91 FIP, 1.84 WHIP). Now add in the fact that every pitcher's success post-Tommy John will vary and it becomes obvious that the Yankees shouldn't expect much from Nova in 2015. If he makes it through the rehab process and is pitching well, where does he fit in on the team? The current rotation is Sabathia, Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Capuano, and if it stays this way come Opening Day, then a healthy Nova would probably replace Capuano who is the fifth guy at this point. On the other hand, if it's June and Sabathia has been consistently struggling, Nova could even replace CC. If the Yankees are actually pursuing James Shields and happen to sign him, then Nova could replace whoever was struggling more between Sabathia and Eovaldi. This is all assuming that the entire rotation has stayed healthy though, so it may be that someone like Bryan Mitchell has already filled the fifth spot, which would make it easier for Nova to step in. Then again, if Nova's rehab takes on the longer side or runs into any complications, the Yankees might not even need to worry about how he will fit in.
What do you think is a realistic expectation for Nova this season, and where will he fit when he finally comes off of the disabled list?