Ivan Nova warming up to the Florida State League. After a tough start to his season, the 21-year-old right-hander is on a roll.
Nova yielded two hits over a career-high eight innings Tuesday as Tampa blanked Vero Beach, 1-0, at Steinbrenner Field.
After going 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA in April, Nova has won three of his four outings this month.
"He's making good strides," Yankees pitching coach Greg Pavlick said. "He's really matured in the last couple of games and made a little turnaround."
Nova (3-5) struck out six and walked one to lower his ERA to 3.88. He yielded singles to Quinn Stewart in the third inning and Nevin Ashley in the eighth.
"He had command of his fastball to both sides of the plate," Pavlick said. "Sometimes he struggles with that. He had a real good curveball too."
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004, Nova had several good starts despite losing all five of his April outings. He yielded two runs on six hits in five innings in his Class A Advanced debut April 7 and three runs -- two earned -- on three hits in six frames April 18. Tampa (26-19) only scored four combined runs for him in April, though.
"That losing streak, he pitched pretty well," Pavlick said. "But there wasn't a lot of run support in his defense. Getting that first win really helped him."
The Dominican Republic native nabbed his first victory May 4 against Jupiter, giving up two hits over six scoreless innings. That apparently turned him around, and the past experience helped him deal with Tuesday's pitchers' duel against the Devil Rays (21-24).
Vero Beach starter Ryan Morse surrendered two hits and three walks with four strikeouts in five shutout frames. Brian Baker (3-2) gave up one run on two hits and struck out three in two innings.
"Both [Nova and Morse] were throwing good games," Nova said. "You have to be on your stuff to keep throwing zeros up there. As a pitcher, you don't have time to let your guard down in games like that."
Tampa scored the only run Nova needed in the sixth. James Cooper led off with a double and came home on Jose Gil's one-out RBI single.
Jose Valdez pitched around a single and a walk in the ninth for his third save.