Chuck James Interview

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks had a chance to talk with Mississippi left-hander Chuck James a few weeks ago. Here's the interview for our premium subscribers.

SHANKS: Tell me first about how things went for you in Myrtle Beach.
JAMES: It was an awesome place to play. It was definitely different from playing in Mississippi as far as the weather goes. It's definitely nice to move up. I played with guys in Myrtle Beach that I had been playing with for three years. It was definitely a change moving up and trying to be apart of the family with this team.

SHANKS: We know you probably would have been in Myrtle Beach late last year, so did you feel that you could go to Myrtle and do well like you did?
JAMES: Just like any other year, when I first got up there I was comfortable with my teammates and all of that. I opened up the first game in Myrtle Beach, and I was a little nervous. I went out there and did well. It usually takes about two or three starts before I start feeling comfortable. I thought if I kept doing well I'd do well, but I figured it would be around the All-Star Break. So they caught me by surprise. I was just getting comfortable up there, so now I'm kind of starting all over.

SHANKS: So far, so good, huh?
JAMES: I've felt pretty good. McCann's awesome to throw to.

SHANKS: You told me at the end of last season that you wanted to work on your slider. How is it going with the slider?
JAMES: I threw it a little bit toward the end of the season in Rome, and then with Myrtle Beach I worked with Bruce Dal Canton. He's just awesome. He helped me a little bit more. Now I can throw it whenever I need to. I feel comfortable throwing it. It's definitely coming around for me.

SHANKS: So now the slider is in your rotation of pitches?
JAMES: Yeah. We're definitely working it in a lot more than we used to.

SHANKS: And how many times did you throw it last season per game?
JAMES: About 5-10 times per game.

SHANKS: So how do you compare your slider to your changeup right now?
JAMES: Well, actually right now I'm probably throwing my slider a little better than my changeup. My change up is getting good action and everything, but I'm just not throwing it as much for strikes as I would like to. So it's nice to have that slider in the bag so I can get that over.

SHANKS: Now I don't want to give away any secrets here, but when people look at your numbers they've got to assume that you throw hard or have some trick pitch. What has made you so tough?
JAMES: I don't think I have anything but ordinary stuff. When I first came into pro ball I threw behind Bryan Digby. He's throwing 98, and I'm like, ‘Oh man, I don't need to be here.' He calls a fastball and I just throw it. It's worked out so far.

SHANKS: Are you spotting it well? Is that part of your plan?
JAMES: I definitely have my games where I spot it well. I think the first game I pitched in AA here it was unbelievable. I had never hit my spots that well. There are times that I'm just effectively wild sometimes. It works, so I try not to complain.

SHANKS: So what do you top out at?
JAMES: Probably at about 91, 92 mph.

SHANKS: When you know that you're not like Digby and you can't throw 98, does that make it more important to be able to spot your pitches well?
JAMES: Definitely. Even if you're throwing 98, if you're hitting your spots, it's just going to help you in the long run. Of course, I'm not going to hit my spots every time. In my head, I throw 98, so I guess that's all that matters.

SHANKS: What does this early success do for your confidence?
JAMES: I have been very successful. I try not to look too far ahead. Any day I could go out in my next start and throw out my arm or get hit by a line drive and my career could be over. So I just try to take it a day at a time and do what I can the next day.

SHANKS: Is it good to be back with (Mississippi Pitching Coach) Kent Willis, since you were with him last year in Rome?
JAMES: It definitely helps. When I first came up here, I was pretty nervous. Having him as a pitching coach, I don't have to learn anybody new. It is definitely an advantage.

SHANKS: Well let's look ahead – even though you don't like to. Have you started to think about what might happen later in the year if you keep this up?
JAMES: You definitely never know. It would be nice (to get to the big leagues). You try not to think about it. I'm fortunate enough that I got called up pretty early to get up here. I'm just trying to be a family with these guys and help us win.

SHANKS: But they are always looking for lefties in that bullpen?
JAMES: Yeah, there are definitely not as many lefties as there are righties, so I'm definitely thankful for that. If I were right-handed, I probably would have never been drafted since I'm not 6'5".

SHANKS: What's more important to you – the low walk total or the strikeouts?
JAMES: It's a little bit of both, of course. I don't want to walk anybody. You're always going to walk a few people. I don't think I've had too many walks this year. Strikeouts just kind of come. I just try to make my pitches wherever he's calling for it. It's up to them to hit it. I just try to hit my spots. Strikeouts are pretty much them getting themselves out. With walks, I pretty much just try to throw strikes. I try to stay ahead of batters. It helps you out in the long run.

SHANKS: How do you feel going up against left-handed batters?
JAMES: I've actually never really paid attention to the stats as far as that is concerned until this year. I think I read something in Baseball America that said something about me throwing against lefties. I don't think I've given up too many hits against lefties. It's definitely comfortable (facing lefties), especially since my slider has come along way. I feel real comfortable throwing it to lefties. That's definitely another pitch to use against them. Lefties don't like to hit off lefty pitchers.

SHANKS: Speaking of Baseball America, you were number one on their Hot Sheet a few weeks ago. That had to be pretty neat.
JAMES: That's what I heard. I try not to look at that. Mom and Daddy like to call me up every now and then to tell me what's going on. It's neat, though.

Bill Shanks has a new book about baseball and scouting and player development. Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team is out on the bookshelves right now. It includes a chapter on all the kids in the Braves farm system from the state of Georgia, including Chuck James. Bill can be reached at

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