BRADENTON, Florida (Sports Radio 93-7 The Fan) – After signing a 3-year, $26 million contract to remain with the Pirates following the trade in July, starter Ivan Nova is backing it up with a solid spring.

Nova is 1-0 with 7 strikeouts and a 0.90 ERA and said knowing he is a lock in the rotation, allows him to really improve on his game, including drilling down on his change-up.

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“I always say when you are fighting for a spot you don’t get the chance to repeat on your change-up, because you don’t want to get behind in the count, you don’t want to get hit,” Nova said. “But now, you are just working on stuff that can help you for the season.”

Nova was 5-2 with the Bucs last year. In 11 starts, he struck out 52 and walked just three. Nova credited those numbers to pitch efficiency. For example, he threw 65 pitches against Boston on Thursday night, 45 for strikes.

“That was one of the things that helped me a lot last year,” Nova said. “I have the same mindset and do it here in Spring Training and carry it on to the season.”

“We didn’t change anything when he was with us last year,” Manager Clint Hurdle said of adjustments when Nova came over from the Yankees. “Ray (Searage) did some fine tuning, but Ivan worked himself to a good spot. Coming into camp we said, ‘Here’s our game plan, what’s yours? How do we meet in the middle to get to where we need to in the end?’”

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Nova has spent the entire Spring with the Pirates, but is part of the “pitcher pool” for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic.

“I would love to play,” Nova said. “I’m here right now, if they need me. I’m more than happy to play. I want those guys to win though, because if they need me it means there is something wrong.”

Nova said he’s been watching the games, begrudgingly. Not that he isn’t rooting for his country, but when he gets home from a game or workouts he just wants to unwind with TV. However, his whole family, including his wife is crazy about baseball.

“I get home and want to watch Telenovella or something and they are watching the baseball classic. It’s not that I don’t want to watch it. My wife doesn’t want to go out to eat, she wants to watch the baseball classic. My brother is the same way, so I sit there and watch with them,” he said.

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