Commentary

Ivan Nova's rotation spot on line at Citi

Bombers surge into Queens as the AL's top team, but young righty's got competition

Updated: July 1, 2011, 8:58 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Question after question infiltrated the Yankee Stadium home clubhouse. Have you noticed the New York Mets? Have you seen how they have hit the ball? What do you think about them?

[+] EnlargeIvan Nova
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesIvan Nova's been good -- but the Yankees are about to have a surplus of starting pitching.

A less secure clubhouse might have had players lashing out, saying, what do you think about us?

Besides Nick Swisher hearing one question too many about Jose Reyes, there was none of that after CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees blanked the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-0, and extended their season-best winning streak to five. The Bombers are 15-4 in their past 19 games, elevating them to a season-high 17 games over .500.

They are the best team in the American League. Now, here they come for the Mets.

They will take the No. 7 train to Queens (OK, more likely a luxury bus), with their starter Friday, Ivan Nova, pitching for his place in the rotation.

It is on the line because, despite a 7-4 record and a very respectable 4.26 AL East ERA, the Yankees have more reinforcements coming to slap around Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia.

On Friday, Phil Hughes looked good enough in Trenton that he may be back in the majors by next week, while Bartolo Colon is set for Saturday at Citi. This has Joe Girardi pondering a six-man rotation, which would seem unlikely given the fact Sabathia will work every fifth day, guaranteed.

"It is probably one of the things we will talk about," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "I'm not sure, if we did it, how long we would do it."

If Nova doesn't move to the bullpen or to the minors (he does have options), then who else would go? Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are off-limits. Colon (5-3, 3.10) and Freddy Garcia (7-6, 3.28 ERA) are Scrap Heap All-Stars.

If Hughes takes a hold of his spot, then Nova could be a long man or the Yankees may want him to get regular work in the minors so he is ready when a starter invariably goes down.

These "too many good quarterbacks" problems are the type the Yankees have these days. With no Cliff Lee, no Andy Pettitte, basically no Hughes, basically no Rafael Soriano, now with no Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees are still the best team in the AL. At this point, the Red Sox are still arching their head back, two-and-a-half games below the Bombers in the East.

The Yankees come to Citi Field to play the underdog Mets, taking a page from their historical script with a "Ya Gotta Believe" stretch that is capturing their fans' imagination. Reyes is having the best year of any player in New York. Only Swisher is not watching his every move. (Swisher did not understand why a reporter asked him about it.)

The Yankees have a habit of squashing the Mets' momentum and this weekend they could do it again. The Mets won't have to face Sabathia, which is a huge break for them because he is stalking Justin Verlander in the Cy Young race.

Mark Teixeira is leading the majors in home runs after his 25th dinger of the year on Thursday. Last year, Teixeira didn't hit that many until Aug. 8. He now has 300 for his career.

This weekend had the makings of a classic because of another round number --- 3,000. If Derek Jeter could have recovered quicker from his calf, he might have made Yankee history at Citi Field.

Instead, the Yankees are cruising without him. With Eduardo Nunez at short the past 15 games, the Yankees are 12-3.

"It comes down to pitching," said Jorge Posada, stating a fact, not defending his best buddy.

It does, and who ever would have thought the Lee-less, Pettitte-less Yankees, would have too much of it as the first half nears its conclusion?

This month, Nova is 4-1 with a 3.58 ERA, but he could be the guy who is out of the rotation when Hughes is back in. Of course, if he adds an eighth win and pitches well again, how can you remove him?

"I just have to do my job anywhere I am," Nova said.

The Yankees are all doing their jobs anywhere they are, which is why they are playing as well as anyone in baseball.

"I'm not surprised," Girardi said. "Our depth has been tested and they have come through for us."

Now, they will go to Citi Field and Nova will be tested. They have heard the questions about the Mets. Their actions will show what they really think of them.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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