Ivan Nova didn't expect to be traded last offseason. But now that he's with the Chicago White Sox, he knows where he fits into the team's plans — to make 30 starts and be a mentor, if needed.
"If I've got to approach somebody, I'll do it my way," Nova said Wednesday at White Sox camp.
"I'm not a type of guy that's going to step up in front of everybody and say something. I don't like to get involved in anyone's personal space. But if I've got to say something to someone, I'm going to grab them aside and do it that way," he said.
Nova's way on the mound has been throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters. The 32-year-old right-hander was acquired from Pittsburgh after going 9-9 with a 4.19 ERA in 29 starts last season for the Pirates. The White Sox gave up a prospect and some international slot money to get a pitcher they hope can fill the veteran starter role that James Shields held the last few years.
"It's a good thing that teams out there still want you," Nova said. "It's way different when nobody wants you. It's surprising, especially after the type of meeting you have with the organization where you think you're going to stay there one more year, and then you find out they trade you."
The Pirates are embarking on a rebuilding program, while the White Sox enter the third year of their teardown with hopes of beginning the climb back to contention.
Nova joins Reynaldo Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Lucas Giolito in the first four slots of the White Sox rotation.
"I'm looking forward to watching him throw and talking to him," Giolito said. "He's a strike-thrower. That's what we need to do as a starting staff, fill up the zone."
"Having someone to keep us grounded and guide us in the right direction. We (young pitchers) can be all over the place sometimes," he said.
Manager Rick Renteria remembers when Nova was one of those young pitchers. A decade ago, Renteria was a coach with the San Diego Padres, who took Nova in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees. The Padres didn't keep him past spring training, though, and Nova returned to New York's roster.
"He's a professional," Renteria said. "He brings in experience and the ability to communicate with everybody across the board. He can keep us in ballgames."
Nova likes what he sees in the early days of spring training as he gets familiar with his new teammates.
"I think we've got a lot of talent, good enough to compete. That's what I see. I see that in the faces of these guys. They're hungry, they want to win. I know they're young, but they have big expectations," he said.
And helping them meet those expectations is something Nova sees as his responsibility.
"You can't be shy. You've got to be yourself. I'm probably new for a lot of these guys, but there are other guys I've seen in the past from playing against each other. So it's not difficult," he said.