BRADENTON, Fla. — Ivan Nova will be the Pirates’ Opening Day starting pitcher at Detroit on March 29. It is unclear whether he will remain with Pittsburgh through the entire season.
Following the offseason trades of 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen and former 19-game winner Gerrit Cole, Nova is a veteran on a team that has turned toward youth. Nova is owed $8.5 million in each of the next two seasons as part of a $26 million, three-year contract.
“I said it when I signed here, and I still feel this way: This is [the] place I want to be,” Nova said. “I love playing for the Pirates.”
Acquired from the New York Yankees on July 31, 2016, Nova is 16-16 with a 3.82 ERA in 42 starts with Pittsburgh. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle calls the 31-year-old right-hander “the dean” of the rotation. Nova is four years older than any of the other projected starters, and his 69 wins in eight seasons are 24 more than the combined total of rotation mates Chad Kuhl (13), Jameson Taillon (13), Joe Musgrove (11) and Trevor Williams (eight).
Nova’s first Opening Day start will be at Comerica Park, where he made his major league debut with two innings of relief on May 13, 2010.
“It’s a privilege,” Nova said. “Every starting pitcher’s dream is to start the season for a team, be the Opening Day guy.”
Nova reported to spring training considerably lighter than he was at the end of last season. He is hoping that leads to more consistency.
He was 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts last April while allowing one walk in 36 innings. He was 2-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 13 starts during the second half.
“I worked harder than I ever have in the offseason,” Nova said. “I was upset about the way last season ended. I know I’m a better pitcher than that. I felt like I let team down and I let myself down too. I don’t want to have another season like that.”