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It's been widely assumed that David Phelps will be the pitcher bounced from the rotation when CC Sabathia makes his projected return from the disabled list on Friday.
Ivan Nova is making it difficult to agree with that course of action. Nova was bad again in Chicago on Tuesday night, allowing six runs in six innings to pave the way to a 7-3 loss that cost the Yankees a chance to regain a game on the Rays.
The problem with Nova is the same problem that it has been for him all season long. He leaves the ball up in the zone and opposing hitters tee off on it to the tune of doubles, triples and homers -- four of them on Tuesday, including Kevin Youkilis' crippling grand slam -- that make it difficult for the Yankees to win games.
If Nova were merely inconsistent, matching decent outings with nightmares, you wouldn't think that he needs a trip to the minors in hopes of figuring things out. He's been consistently bad, though, and that's made him this year's version of A.J. Burnett.
Well, last year's version because this year's A.J. Burnett is turning in one of the best seasons in the National League. But the point is that, like Burnett in the Bronx, Nova keeps getting beaten in the same exact way and he isn't showing any sign of pulling out of the nosedive.
The Yankees are 20-18 since the All-Star break, which has combined with a torrid Rays run to allow the AL East race to remain closer than it seemed it would earlier this season. The Yankees are 18-12 in games started by anyone but Nova, however, and that makes it pretty clear why this race has remained close enough to generate the occasional call to WFAN shrieking about the Yankees missing the playoffs.
The Yankees didn't have the choice to do anything with Burnett and he refused a trip to the minors. They can send Nova to the minors, however, and they can do it with the confidence that Phelps couldn't possibly be any worse than Nova.
It's a move they may have to make anyway if Andy Pettitte returns to action and it is one they should make now in hopes of discovering something that leads to better results.
After all, the team is going to need a starter if Pettitte isn't able to return and it's worth finding out if Nova has any chance of being that guy without risking the division title every five days.