New York Yankees: Should Hughes or Nova Get the 5th Spot in the Rotation?

Nicholas BaderContributor IIAugust 9, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30:  Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees pumps his fist into his glove after getting the third out in the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles on July 30, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

There has been some speculation around the Yankees this season regarding Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. 

Hughes, who suffered from a “dead arm” earlier this year, is looking to rebound during the second half of the season. 

Meanwhile, the upstart Ivan Nova is fighting to stay on the Yankees major-league roster, rather than playing for their minor-league affiliates in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

One of the questions surrounding Hughes and the second half of the season is whether or not he can bring back the 2010 All-Star who had a spectacular year, finishing with a record of 18-8.  

This year, Hughes had a rough start against the Detroit Tigers, when he gave up five runs while only pitching for four innings.  It seemed that it was just going to be a rough beginning to an otherwise promising season, but Hughes’ woes continued as the Yankees played the Red Sox, where he recorded another loss. 

It was not until Hughes’ third start against the Orioles that he got his first win of the season.  Something was obviously wrong in April as Hughes went 1-2 with a 13.94 earned run average, just months after finishing a great season that gave Yankees fans a glimpse of the future.         

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Oakland Athletics on July 22, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In Hughes’ absence, the young prospect Ivan Nova stepped up in a big way to help his club win and stay in the race for the American League East despite many injuries the team suffered.  Thus far, Nova is 9-4 with an earned run average of 4.01. 

While most of Hughes’ starts came against some of the worse teams in the MLB, Nova has pitched well against some of the better teams; picking up wins against the Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox

With Hughes’ return on July 6, the Yankees chose to send Nova to the minor leagues to develop while Hughes got back in the rotation.  In his first start back, Phil Hughes started to show fans glimpses of the pitcher they saw last season as he pitched five innings, only giving up two runs in a loss against a talented Cleveland Indians club. 

If the Yankees were truly about winning baseball games and not protecting someone’s ego, they should have kept Ivan Nova in the starting rotation, rather than shuffling him between the majors and the farm system.  The way the Yankees handled the situation was unfair to Nova. He has been working hard all season and has not given the Yankees much reason to send him back to the minor leagues.

Meanwhile, Phil Hughes has been everything but consistent this season (mainly due to his dead arm). Hughes' pitching has not been very successful for the Yankees this year.  Aside from his recent shutout of the Chicago White Sox, Phil Hughes cannot keep his team in the ball game if they do not give him a lot of run support, which is a problem. 

If Hughes cannot handle the pressure of a close game in the middle innings, then the Yankees have to use the bullpen, which becomes a snowball effect as their players will endure fatigue, messing everything up down the line.

If the Yankees want to do things right by both players, they should keep both of them in the majors from now on and stick to the six-man rotation they have in place. 

For the Yankees, Hughes’ ego is too fragile for him to return to the minor leagues, and when Ivan Nova is pitching, they win games.

At this point, it is the only logical solution, and it should land them in the playoffs for a third year in a row. 

It will be interesting to see what happens, but it is all up to Joe Girardi and the Yankees front office.