SAN DIEGO -- Ivan Nova finally gets a chance to pitch at Petco Park Saturday night.
He came close in 2009 when he spent spring training in the Padres camp as a Rule 5 draft pick. But just before the season started, the Padres elected to return Nova to the Yankees rather than keep the then 22-year-old on the major league roster for a full year.
It is a decision the Padres have regretted.
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Nova was in the major leagues by the end of the 2010 season and has compiled a 44-41 record since.
He makes his first start at Petco Park in the second contest of a three-game set between the Yankees and the Padres.
The right-handed Nova, who is 5-5 with a 5.32 ERA in 16 games (10 starts) faces left-hander Drew Pomeranz (7-7, 2.76).
Although he went into spring training battling Brandon Maurer for the No. 5 spot in the Padres rotation, Pomeranz has clearly become -- because of injuries to Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner and the trade of James Shields to the Chicago White Sox -- the No. 1 starter in the Padres rotation.
"We didn't know what we really had with Drew until we saw his curve and started having him use it more," Padres manager Andy Green said. "It is one of the best curves in the major leagues. Most pitchers work off their fastball. With Drew, it's the breaking ball."
Including his last start, Pomeranz has allowed zero earned runs in six of his first 15 starts and two or fewer in another four. Opposing hitters are batting .190 against Pomeranz, which is the third-best mark in the National League. Pomeranz also ranks sixth with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I recently got away from some things that were working for me," said Pomeranz, who had allowed 11 runs in in 16 innings over three starts before allowing only three hits over seven shutout innings in his most recent start in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Nova, 29, makes his 11th start of the season on Saturday after making his first six appearances of the season out of the bullpen. He has allowed at least three runs in each of his last seven starts after giving up just one run in each of his first three starts.
"Ivan has struggled recently," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But the stuff is there. We've seen it earlier this season and before. Like a couple other pitchers, we have to get him back on track."
Nova last started June 27 against the Texas Rangers and allowed four runs on six hits over five innings. He didn't figure in the decision for only the second time in his last 34 starts.
Nova has worked five or fewer innings in each of his last three starts after going at least six innings in five straight.