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Hinch sends James to 'pen for Boston series

Special to MLB.com

BOSTON -- In his big league debut, Josh James slotted in nicely to the rotation, striking out nine and allowing three runs in a no-decision against the Angels on Sept. 1.

On Friday, manager AJ Hinch announced that the right-hander will now slot into a bit of an unfamiliar role, at least for the three-game set against the American League East-leading Red Sox.

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BOSTON -- In his big league debut, Josh James slotted in nicely to the rotation, striking out nine and allowing three runs in a no-decision against the Angels on Sept. 1.

On Friday, manager AJ Hinch announced that the right-hander will now slot into a bit of an unfamiliar role, at least for the three-game set against the American League East-leading Red Sox.

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"For this series he's going to go to the 'pen, and I can see him just being used as any pitcher I would normally use," Hinch said. "He's got a dynamic fastball, he's got two really good secondary pitches. He's never been a reliever per se, but he's pitched in the piggyback tandem in the Minor Leagues. He's come from the bullpen before to enter a game."

Prior to joining the Astros at the beginning of the month, the 25-year-old James made 104 Minor League appearances, 75 of which were starts.

Last season, with Double-A Corpus Christi, James came out of the bullpen on 10 occasions in a variety of situations and logged at least 2 2/3 innings in each of those appearances, going 3-1 with a 1.77 ERA.

For Hinch it's a matter of lining up his pitchers with the current opponent the rest of the way, and facing a potent Boston lineup, he felt it best to have James at the ready if needed over the next three games.

"It's really about this series," said Hinch. "We're going series by series with our rotation with that spot, and we'll see if he continues to be in the bullpen. We'll address how I use him as we go."

Citing the ability to do different things with his pitching staff, Hinch said that if James were to appear this weekend, then rookie left-hander Framber Valdez would remain on track to make his next start against Detroit.

Asked if it would be ideal for James to make his first big league relief appearance in a clean situation, Hinch was hopeful but realistic.

"It probably won't happen," said Hinch. "It's probably bases loaded, J.D. Martinez, 'Go get 'em, kid.'"

Worth noting

• Prior to the series opener at Fenway Park, Hinch announced that Marwin Gonzalez is set for a return this weekend after dealing with a strained right oblique that has sidelined him since he was removed from Monday's game against the Twins.

"We're hopeful he can play [on Saturday]," Hinch said. "He's going to maybe be available today, we'll see how BP goes. He's trending in the right direction, which is good. If I can get him in there tomorrow, he'll start in left field."

Lance McCullers Jr. is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this weekend in Boston, with Hinch leaning toward Saturday.

"He'll be able to test himself out a little bit and see where he's at," Hinch said. "He's been down for a while. One of his first real tests is going to be getting on the mound and getting energy down the hill, [to] throw his pitches and see how he responds to that."

McCullers, who threw a light bullpen on Wednesday, has been out of action since Aug. 5 due to a muscle strain in his right forearm.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston.

Houston Astros, Josh James