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."
James is expected to fill a bullpen role for at least this week with manager A.J. Hinch naming Framber Valdez the Astros' starting pitcher for Tuesday's game against the Tigers, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. Hinch indicated a few days ago that James remained in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation, with the Astros skipper suggesting that he would take a series-by-series approach to decide whether James or Framber Valdez would fill the opening. For at least the next turn through the rotation, Valdez will get the nod, resulting in James sticking in a relief role for the time being. James dazzled in his first appearance out of the bullpen Saturday in Boston, striking out four across 2.2 scoreless frames. With that, however, Hinch noted that the right-hander will likely be unavailable for Monday's series opener against the Tigers.
James may get a start against the Tigers next Tuesday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. With Charlie Morton (shoulder) set to be activated from the 10-disabled list and start Saturday, James will be available out of the bullpen for the weekend series against Boston. That's all manager A.J. Hinch will commit to regarding James as a reliever. Hinch mused about his fifth starter role going forward, telling reporters that James could start during the series against the Tigers that kicks off Monday in Detroit. The manager further muddied his projected starter plans by stating the team's fifth starter role will be on a "series by series" basis. The bottom line is that Tuesday's starter comes down to James or Framber Valdez. Hinch also said that Valdez's spot in the rotation is not in jeopardy. "We may push everybody back and just insert James," the manager said. "We could do a lot of different things."