Making his first start on Saturday since coming off the 15-day disabled list, New York Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova had little trouble containing the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium, contributing to a 5-3 win by holding his opponents to two runs on four hits in six innings (plus one batter).
Nova (85 pitches, 53 strikes), who'd been sidelined with inflammation in his right rotator cuff, made no secret of his frustration with missing time while the AL East race heated up, telling Yahoo! Contributor Network after improving to 12-7, "I want to compete. I like these moments. Of course, you don't want to be in that situation (returning from an injury) right now late in the season, but I always like to be out there competing no matter how [much I'm struggling].
"I know that I can do a good job," he added. "I just gotta piece it together and help them."
Nova, who recorded eight strikeouts, gave up a leadoff single to Jeff Keppinger in the seventh, leading to his removal. The hurler was unsurprisingly reluctant to leave, but a brief discussion with Robinson Cano changed his mind.
"I told Cano that I was feeling my arm [getting tired] a little bit," Nova admitted. "He's the one that convinced me to get out of the game. But I don't wanna get out of the game, you know? But after that is when I started really feeling it."
"The fact that he hadn't been pitching for a while, he had the injury, he came back and kept his velocity up, kept his endurance up, stayed in the ballgame late and did an excellent job to keep that offense at bay," Curtis Granderson, whose two-run home run off James Shields (L, 14-9) on Saturday snapped a scoreless tie, told YCN. "So, big props to him, and welcome back to him."
Another Yankee Granderson and Co. hope to welcome back soon is base-stealing left fielder Brett Gardner, who injured his right elbow in April and subsequently suffered multiple setbacks.
Gardner met with writers outside the Yankees' clubhouse prior to Saturday's game.
On how close he is to coming back: "I feel good. Today was the first day that I've been able to get out there and run around on the dirt and practice stealing bases, and things like that. I think I'm a couple of days away from being able to possibly be in a game. That's obviously going to be up to [the doctors and trainers]. I'm not swinging the bat right now. I hope to start doing that maybe next week. We'll see how that goes. But if there's a situation where I can pinch run or possibly play defense down the road, I'd like to be able to help out."
Discussing whether he's concerned about suffering another setback: "I feel back to my old self. I feel like I'm a hundred percent. Obviously I wouldn't know how I would feel until I started swinging the bat and taking BP on the field. But as far as pinch running or even playing defense, playing catch, ground balls, line drives, fly balls, diving for balls, I don't have any reservations about any of that."
Practicing on defense: "I did a little bit of that last homestand almost two weeks ago. I guess two weeks ago tomorrow (Sunday), so 13 days ago I started doing that. And then I did that yesterday and today, so I feel good out on the field defensively, and I'll actually, in the next day or two, probably practice sliding head-first just to kind of get my timing with that back down. But I feel good."
On when he realized he could possibly return this season:"It's not gonna happen until, you know, it's not up to me; it doesn't matter if I'm ready, it matters if they wanna do this, some time next week, hopefully. But I've kind of known all along that it's a possibility. I'm not gonna count myself out of anything. So I've been doing my part, working hard to not only try and do everything for my elbow, but also keep the rest of the body in shape and ready to go. Just keep working hard and, like I said, hopefully get an opportunity to help the team out a little bit."