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Yanks' Nova struggles against Pirates

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March 17, 2013 05:42 PM EST | AP

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BRADENTON, Fla. — Ivan Nova believes he's gotten comfortable enough with his new delivery to win a spot in the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

Nova tossed five decent innings in an 11-9 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. The right-hander gave up four runs on six hits, walked one and struck out four.

"I think it went good," Nova said. "I got hit a couple times, but I was able to do what I wanted."

Nova has been working in camp with pitching coach Larry Rothschild to shorten the arm movement on his delivery. The adjustment creates more downward plane of Nova's pitches, making his mid-90s mph fastball an even better weapon.

"We're still working on it," Nova said. "It's not easy to do when you don't typically pitch with a shorter arm action. It's getting better. I'm throwing the ball with a better angle and that's something positive. "Sometimes, a couple times (Sunday), it wasn't there," Nova said. "But I feel comfortable. I have two more starts and I think that will be enough time to get ready for the season."

The 26-year-old Nova has lots of potential, but he faded badly over the final two months of last season and was not included on the Yankees' postseason roster.

"This has been a really good spring," Nova said. "I've been throwing strikes, I've been throwing with good velocity, the slider is coming back."

Will it be enough to clinch a rotation spot?

"I can't really say," Nova said. "For me, I don't think I've got to show (anything). I've got to just pitch my game, do the best I can out there and they'll make their decision. Even if I pitch good now, it's their decision."

In his second game since joining the Yankees, Brennan Boesch got his first hit, an infield single. Boesch stole second and scored on Kevin Youkilis' home run to left field, which gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Boesch went 2 for 3 with a sacrifice fly. The Yankees signed Boesch to a one-year, $1.5 million deal Friday after he was released by the Detroit Tigers.

Right-hander Phil Irwin worked 2 1-3 innings for the Pirates and gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks.

"I pitched behind a lot," said Irwin, who likely will start the season in the rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis. "A lot of the things I usually do well I didn't do well today. Sometimes, you have to fail to figure out what you need to do to succeed. Obviously, this didn't go well, but there are still things I can take from this and learn from."

After Irwin issued back-to-back walks in the third inning, he was replaced by Mike Zagurski. Dan Johnson walked to load the bases, then Mesa hit a towering home run into the left field bleachers.

Irwin had put together four good outings – a 2.25 ERA over eight innings, with five hits allowed and nine strikeouts – before struggling against the Yankees.

"It was a tough day for Phil," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But that's part of spring training. You pitch well, you get bigger looks and different opportunities. For whatever reason today, he was behind in the count and his fastball was up. Everything we know about Phil, we didn't see."

Pedro Alvarez had two doubles, including one down the right field line that scored Russell Martin for the Pirates' first run.

NOTES: The Yankees released OF Matt Diaz, who was in camp on a minor league contract. Diaz batted .200 in 13 Grapefruit League games and fell out of contention for a bench spot. ... Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira (partially torn wrist tendon sheaf) reported to camp. He is expected to wear a wrist brace for a month and likely will be out of action until June. ... To mark St. Patrick's Day, the Pirates wore green caps and bench coach Jeff Banister filled out the lineup card in green ink.