Starting pitcher Ivan Nova was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Yankees on Sunday with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He'll be back in New York on Monday to see the Yankees' team doctor for a better observation, so for the time being, we don't know how long Nova will be out.
Assuming the worst case scenario that Nova will need to undergo Tommy John surgery as so many other young starters have done in the recent years, the year-long loss would be a big blow to the Yankees' starting rotation.
The Yankees had high hopes for Nova entering the season. He was coming off of a solid 2013 performance in which he went 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 23 appearances (20 starts), and they were hoping that as the No. 3 starer behind the aging CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, he would be able to take the next step towards being a top-of-the-rotation start for the Yankees in the very near future.
Now with the news of the injury, and Tommy John possible on the horizon, that could mean a big step backwards for the promising 27-year-old.
As for who might be able to take over for him in the rotation, lefty Vidal Nuno made a spot-start for the Bombers yesterday in Tampa, rather than having Masahiro Tanaka pitch on short rest, and I was pretty impressed by his performance, as I have been with him every time he takes the mound.
Nuno pitched five shutout innings in the Yankees' 5-1 win in 12 innings. He held the Rays to just three hits and two walks, while striking out six on 65 pitches. Nuno isn't a hard-thrower -- according to BrooksBaseball.net, he averaged his fastball at 90 mph, and topped out at 91.8 -- but he mixes his pitcher very well and keeps hitters off balance.
I think that after that start yesterday, Joe Girardi will give him at least one more start, and then probably play it off from there until Nuno slips up.
However, if you want to go a different route, Girardi could always move either David Phelps or Adam Warren back into the rotation. Personally, I would move Phelps over Warren because he has more experience starting, plus Warren has seemed to settle in very nicely in the late-inning role as a reliever, and Girardi might not want to lose that arm in his bullpen, even with David Robertson expected to be activated off the DL Tuesday.
One thing is for sure, though, and it's that this rotation is now one more injury away from being in big trouble. Unless you believe that Alfredo Aceves down in Triple-A can be a major contributor.....