Ivan Nova Does What the Yankees Do to the Twins

Rookie's first start of the season is an impressive one

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    They won't all be against the Twins.

    The Yankees should remember to slip Major League Baseball's schedule-maker a little bonus the next time they are in the same place.

    He may be required to put the Twins on the Yankees schedule every season, but his decision to put Minnesota in the Bronx for the second series of 2011 was really going above and beyond to do the Yankees a solid.

    Not only does it allow them to throw some wins together while other teams are finding their footing, it allows them to get Ivan Nova nice and comfortable in his first start of his first year as a rotation staple.

    Since Ron Gardenhire took over as Twins manager, the Yankees are 57-18 against them and games in the Bronx have consistently gone the way of the Bombers since Johan Santana decamped for the Mets. Beating the Twins has become so routine for the Yankees that it is hard to muster even a moment of concern when Minnesota puts forth a comeback effort.

    There was such a moment in the fifth inning on Monday night. The Twins had just cut the score to 4-3 and had Joe Mauer at the plate with a runner on second and two outs.

    Nova had pitched well, but this was a batting champ and one of the best players in the game stepping into the box. It wasn't a situation that favored the rookie, but even Mauer can't overcome the fates.

    He grounded out, Nova cruised through the sixth and then the Yankees went to their new game shortening law firm of Chamberlain, Soriano and Rivera to nail down the last nine outs. Offensively, the Yanks continued their assualt on the bleachers with homers by Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, but the story was really about the rookie.

    The most impressive thing about his start wasn't that he showed the ability to get the big out during that matchup against Mauer. It was the fact that he needed just 83 pitches to get into the sixth inning, an efficiency that was missing from both A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes over the weekend.

    If he throws strikes like that on a regular basis, Nova is going to do just fine as the fourth starter this season. He may even wind up being more than that should this represent merely scratching the surface of his ability.

    Of course, it could also just be the fact that he was wearing pinstripes against the Twins. We'll find out in Boston this weekend.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.