Yesterday, as Yankees 101 continued its list of eight most interesting Yankees entering 2013, newly signed third baseman Kevin Youkilis checked in at number seven.
A longtime Yankees rival as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Youkilis is looking to rejuvenate his career following a forgettable 2012, one in which he clashed with then-Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and battled through injuries. Now, with the long-term absence of incumbent Alex Rodriguez, Youkilis will have ample opportunity to drive in runs and get back to his previous consistency of being a .300 batter.
With six days to go until the first of pitchers and catchers report to commence spring training, we now delve into our sixth most interesting Yankee to watch entering 2013.
With the offseason re-signings of starting pitchers Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, a rotation topped by ace C.C. Sabathia was fortified. Furthermore, a strong second half of 2012 and a contract year in 2013 have given a positive outlook for projected number four starter Phil Hughes.
However, there is less closure from the number five spot. Coming off a "Jekyll and Hyde" 2012, Ivan Nova left a lot to be desired. Moreover, the unveiling of David Phelps, which included strong showings in spot-start duty and out of the bullpen, increased the spotlight that much more on Nova. Simply put, is 2013 his last chance to prove he belongs in the rotation?
For the uncertainty of how he will bounce back following an injury-riddled 2012, Nova garners the sixth spot in our most interesting Yankees to watch entering 2013.
What makes Nova an interesting Yankee to watch entering 2013? It will be important to see how the young right-hander responds to the emergence of Phelps and the possibility of Michael Pineda making his way to the Bronx come June.
Following a rookie season in 2011 where Nova flourished with a 16-4 record and a high finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting, 2012 would be less friendly to Nova. With a 2-5 record and an earned run average of 6.40 over the final half of the season, Nova would eventually wind up on the 15-day disabled list due to shoulder problems. Moreover, Nova's exclusion from the Yankees post-season roster would punctuate a dismal 2012.
Needless to say, while Phelps emerged as a viable pitching option in 2012, it's hard to speculate his reliability in a full-time role in the rotation. Therefore, this leaves Nova with potentially one final opportunity to show the same brilliance he displayed in 2011, a season where he went 12-1 over the final three months with a high propensity to induce ground-outs and produce strikeouts.
A resurgent Nova would be a welcome gain to an already solid rotation. Furthermore, the anticipation to see him get back to his impressive repertoire makes him an interesting Yankee.
Courtesy of MLB.com, the below video of one of Nova's best performances of 2012, a 10-strikeout showing in a little over seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, garnering his 11th win of the season.
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