One of the best signs of the spring for the Yankees has been the way all the pitchers involved in the fight for the last two spots in the rotation have been doing their best to win a job.
Compare that to what's going on in the second base battle at Mets camp and you realize how lucky the boys from the Bronx have been.
It was very easy to envision things playing out differently with Joe Girardi forced to choose the lessers of many evils for starting roles. Instead he's gotten good work from Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Sergio Mitre, as well as eye-opening stuff from the young Manuel Banuelos.
Nothing compares to what Ivan Nova did on Wednesday, however. Nova threw six no-hit innings against the Orioles, making a strong case for a spot right behind Phil Hughes when the Yankees head north later this month. It wasn't a pushover lineup either. The Orioles were starting Vladimir Guerrero, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Luke Scott, but Nova never blinked.
As impressive as no-hitting Baltimore was, it might not have been the most impressive part of Nova's effort. That would be the fact that he needed just 59 pitches to get through the six innings, which was so little work that he actually needed to throw extra pitches in the bullpen when he came out of the game to complete his prescribed work for the day.
It was, by far, the best start of the exhibition season and the kind of outing that makes it hard to imagine Nova being anything less than the fifth starter on the team this season. Garcia seems to have one spot nailed down and, after Wednesday, it is harder to make a case for Colon.
When we discussed the rotation earlier this week, the thing holding Nova back was the lack of a start like this on his resume. He was clearly capable of mucking his way through five innings, but that didn't make him a likelier bet for success than Colon and, as such, didn't make him the best choice to break camp with the Yankees.
But Wednesday's start showed a different kind of upside, one that Colon simply doesn't have six years after he was a consistently good big league pitcher.
Given the strength of the rest of the team, the Yankees can roll the dice on that upside without risking a downside lower than they'd get with any other choice. That makes a final decision much easier.