HOUSTON -- When we last saw Astros fireballer Josh James on the mound in March, he was making a strong case to grab a spot in the starting rotation with a solid Spring Training performance. He was throwing as hard as ever and had ironed out his mechanics, giving him
HOUSTON -- When we last saw Astros fireballer Josh James on the mound in March, he was making a strong case to grab a spot in the starting rotation with a solid Spring Training performance. He was throwing as hard as ever and had ironed out his mechanics, giving him tons of confidence.
James, 27, didn’t report to Summer Camp until Monday because he stayed at home in Florida for the birth of his daughter, Sophia, but he tried to keep his pitching momentum going with a rigorous throwing program while he was away from the club. Despite having a newborn at home, James didn’t hesitate in rejoining his teammates.
“It always has its difficulties, but my family understands that baseball is a huge part of who I am and what I do, and I love this team,” he said. “Nothing makes me happier than to come and be a part of this team and win. There’s always going to be sacrifices in life, and this was one of them.”
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James, a leading contender for one of the final two spots in the rotation, said he’s built up to throw 75-80 pitches. He was working out five times a week in Florida, including yoga twice a week, and was catching and throwing nearly every day. He even faced some Major League hitters during live batting practice, including Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan LaMarre, as well as Astros prospect Grae Kessinger.
“I tried to do a really good job of staying in shape and trying to make it game-like,” James said. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot with my delivery, the way my body feels, the amount of work I put in. I think I’ll be ready.”
The top of the rotation is set with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. The fourth spot was likely headed to José Urquidy in the spring, but he was put on the 10-day injured list on Sunday for undisclosed reasons. Right-handers Austin Pruitt and Bryan Abreu and lefty Framber Valdez could also be in the rotation hunt.
“I know Dusty [Baker] has been impressed with a lot of the young arms,” general manager James Click said. “We may have to get creative when it comes to those couple of spots in the rotation, but definitely excited with Josh James being here, reporting and showing up and looking awesome. We have a lot of guys who are ready to step up and we’re going to let the players sort it out for themselves.”
James, who can touch 100 mph with his fastball, spent his first full season in the big leagues last year, appearing in 49 games (one start) and striking out 100 batters in 61 1/3 innings. He worked on changes to his delivery in the offseason to be more “linear” to the plate and is excited to take it into the season.
“I don’t think my mechanics will ever be perfect, but one day at a time,” he said. “I’m focused on feeling what I felt in spring. Even though we didn’t have the fans, the atmosphere, in my mind I wanted to make it as game-like as possible and feel what I felt in the spring. I had some really good results in those lives. I’m really anxious to get back to playing. I really feel really good.”
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.