"On the right day, you see that type of ability,'' Cashman said of his special assistant's assessment of Nova, a 23-year-old righthander.
The Padres concurred, as they selected Nova in the 2008 big league Rule 5 draft, only to return him to New York last March.
While Nova's overall showing last season—6-8, 3.68 with 90 strikeouts and 59 walks in 139 innings—may seem pedestrian, he excelled for Double-A Trenton. He got roughed up with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (5.10 ERA) but still managed a strong 1.73 groundout-to-flyout ratio on the year.
Nova finished on a strong note in the Dominican League, where he appeared in five games for Escogido and went 1-0, 1.05 with 17 strikeouts and four walks over 26 innings. In all, he completed 165 innings before the Yankee shut him down for the winter.
"He will compete (for a spot) in spring training, but the best bet for him is Scranton because he wasn't there that long,'' farm director Mark Newman said. "This winter was a step forward for him, that's for sure.''
If Nova can improve his command, he could force his way to the Bronx thanks to a 94 mph fastball and solid changeup. He also features a slider and curveball.
With C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez entrenched as the Yankees' front four, Nova will battle righthanders Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain for the fifth spot. Thus Nova's chances to make the team out of spring training appear remote.
However, like all teams, the Yankees dip into their system for starters when injuries strike. That's how Mitre got his foot in the door a year ago.
Or Nova could be included in a trade to bolster a midseason weakness.
• Manager Dave Miley will return for his fifth season as manager at Scranton. Coaches Butch Wynegar (hitting) and Scott Aldred (pitching) also will be back. Torre Tyson will enter his fourth year as low Class A Charleston manager.
• The Yankees signed outfielder Reid Gorecki, who made his big league debut last season with the Braves, to a minor league deal. He turned in a solid winter campaign in the Mexican Pacific League, batting .250/.341/.383 in 53 games.