James won't start Sunday's regular-season finale against the Orioles with Charlie Morton (personal/shoulder) in line to receive the nod, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. Morton's availability this weekend was something of a question mark after he recently battled shoulder discomfort before leaving the team to witness the birth of his child. The right-hander rejoined the squad Saturday apparently in better health, so he'll take the hill for what's expected to be an abbreviated start as he looks to stay fresh in advance of the postseason. Because Morton won't handle a starter's workload, James and/or Framber Valdez could both be summoned for multiple innings out of the bullpen as both rookies look to make one last case for a spot on the postseason roster.
James (2-0) gave up one run on four hits and one walk while striking out three in five innings Tuesday in Toronto. He picked up the win. The expectation is that this was a spot start, and likely his final start of the season, although it's still possible he could be used in Sunday's game in Baltimore. If this was his final appearance of the season, James will finish with a 2.57 ERA (3.58 FIP) and 27:7 K:BB in 21 innings (three starts and two relief appearances). The 25-year-old righty entered the year as a non-prospect but quickly earned a place on prospect rankings and finished the season touching triple digits in the big leagues. Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton will be free agents this offseason, so James should be given a chance to compete for a rotation spot in spring training.
James will draw the start Tuesday against the Blue Jays, Julia Morales of AT&T SportsNet Southwest reports. James has made four appearances for the Astros since being called up from Triple-A Fresno. He's surrendered five runs over 16 innings while fanning 24 over that stretch. The 25-year-old will draw a favorable matchup Tuesday in Toronto, and he'll slot back into a bullpen role following his outing.
James was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Houston organization, Reid Laymance of the Houston Chronicle reports. The 25-year-old James came out of nowhere, riding a breakout campaign at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno into an impact role in the Astros bullpen. He limited opponents to a .191 batting average and posted a 3.23 ERA with a gaudy 171 strikeouts over 114.1 innings. His work in the majors -- 2.81 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 16 innings -- puts him in the mix for a spot on the postseason roster as a reliever.
James will be available to pitch in relief Tuesday against the Tigers, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. Manager A.J. Hinch had been kicking around an idea of having James start Tuesday, but eventually decided on Framber Valdez. Hinch said James will be available in relief at least through the Detroit series, but said he's "not giving up hope" for James to make another start. The young right-hander showed excellent poise in a relief outing last Saturday, striking out four over 2.2 scoreless innings against the Red Sox. "He looked like a reliever and a guy who could be relied on to face a really good lineup in really big innings," Hinch said Monday. "That kind of strike-throwing, that kind of demeanor and poise, he looks like a weapon."