Braves activate Chipper, demote James
Third baseman starts Friday; struggling lefty sent to Triple-A
PHOENIX -- Chipper Jones was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday and immediately placed back in the Braves' starting lineup.
Braves manager Bobby Cox had previously indicated he might limit to Jones to pinch-hitting duties after his return. But the veteran third baseman, who has the best batting average in the Majors, convinced Cox with his words and actions that he was ready to play for the first time since straining his left hamstring on July 23.
"He did everything well [during Thursday's batting practice]," Cox said. "Chipper knows his body. He's always given me honest answers and he says he's ready to go."
To open a roster spot for Jones, the Braves optioned Chuck James back to Triple-A Richmond. The hope is that the once-promising left-hander makes more progress than he had during his last stint in Richmond.
"It's definitely been a strange year," James said. "I thought last year was bad, when I was trying to stay above .500. Now that doesn't seem that bad."
During his seven Major League starts this year, James has gone 2-5 with a 9.10 ERA. Opponents have compiled a .415 on-base percentage and hit 10 homers in the 29 2/3 innings he's pitched.
This has caused many to wonder how this could suddenly happen to somebody who won 11 games during both of his first two full Major League seasons. James said that he asks himself this question "about four times a day."
"It is what it is," James said. "You just have to get back to where you were."
In order for James to regain his previous success, he'll have to rework his mechanics and the changeup that was once his best pitch. His mechanical flaws began after he encountered shoulder fatigue midway through last season.
During his first 39 career Major League starts, James went 19-12 with a 3.73 ERA and allowed an average of 1.40 homers per nine innings. But in the 16 starts he's made since July 31 of last year, he's gone 5-7 with a 7.26 ERA and seen opponents hit an average of 3.03 homers per nine innings.
James was idle most of this winter and during the early weeks of Spring Training because of a partially torn rotator cuff. He thinks the adjusted schedule may have prevented him from regaining the mechanics he lost while attempting to pitch through the shoulder fatigue he experienced last year.
"I just kind of had to rush myself to get ready for this year," James said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.