By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - After being sent down to the minor leagues in mid-season, pitcher Ivan Nova vowed he would never go back to a life of riding buses to road games again once he got another shot at pitching for the New York Yankees.
The strapping Dominican made good on that promise once he was recalled to the Bronx and rose to number two in the Yankee rotation to earn the start in Saturday's Game Two of the American League Divisional Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Nova won eight decisions without a loss after rejoining the Yankees to improve his record to 16-4 and leave the Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Pennsylvania) Triple A club in his rear-view mirror.
"I wasn't thinking at the beginning I was going to be the second starter in the playoffs," Nova told reporters before Friday's series opener.
"But I always want to win. It's what I like."
Nova, 24, was the victim of a numbers game when the Yankees wanted to make room for the return of injured starting pitcher Phil Hughes. The big right-hander was sent down despite compiling an 8-4 record with an earned run average of 4.12.
One month later, Nova was called back up.
"You never want to go back," Nova said at the time. When I got back here, that's one of the first things that I said: 'I don't want to go back.' It's not good to have to take a bus for eight, nine hours. That's never good."
Nova made the most of the second opportunity, picking up seven wins in his first seven games back on the mound for the Yankees and lowered his ERA to 3.70 for the season.
The Dominican said he was a different pitcher when he returned.
"I was totally different from the beginning of the season. I came here with another mind-set. I don't want to go back to the minor leagues. I was making sure to do everything possible to not go back to the minors again."
Nova, who will be making his playoffs debut, said he had watched video of former Yankees big-game pitcher Andy Pettitte, Major League Baseball's leader in postseason wins with 19.
"One thing I see is confidence, the way he does it on the mound," Nova said about Pettitte. "How he's not rushing himself or anything. He has so much confidence in himself and a lot of concentration. That's the thing I have to do tomorrow."
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Julian Linden)