September callup excites A's James

September callup excites A's James

NEW YORK -- Justin James thought he was going to be closing out Triple-A Sacramento's game on Monday.

But the right-handed reliever never got the nod to warm up. Instead, he got a different type of call.

"After the game, [manager] Tony DeFrancesco was giving us a pep talk, saying how everyone was playing well," James said. "He said there were a few guys doing so well that they were going to the big leagues. And then he said my name.

"I was definitely surprised. I don't look too far into the future, especially with the way things have gone. I try to just worry about the present."

It was a moment that had the 28-year-old James still smiling ear-to-ear Wednesday, when he and fellow reliever Ross Wolf joined the A's in New York as the club's first pair of September callups. It was also one he wasted no time in sharing with his brother, Chad, a Marlins 2009 first-round Draft pick who is currently playing Class A ball.

"He's my best friend," James said. "There were a lot of emotions. He was pumped up for me and we were both tearing up a bit."

His brother happens to be responsible for keeping James in the game. James was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2003 Draft and spent five seasons in their organization before being traded to Cincinnati following the 2007 season. The next season brought about elbow problems, leading to limited playing time and a subsequent release -- all of which had James seriously considering his future.

"You never want to take the jersey off your back," James said, "but I was going through a rough time."

He took time out of his offseason to visit with his brother's trainer, who discovered that, despite negative MRI results on his sore arm, the right-handed pitcher had no mobility in his shoulder. Thus, James was able to use that knowledge to work his way back to the mound.

"That was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, going there," he said. "It really changed my life around. My brother kept telling me to hang in there and keep going, and I did."

James was playing in the independent Northern League at the time the A's signed him to a Minor League contract on June 19, when he was appointed to Double-A Midland. With the Rockhounds, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 12 relief appearances before being promoted to Sacramento, where he did even better with a 1.37 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.

"The last thing I want to do is walk people," he said. "Just stay with what I've been doing and keep pounding the zone, that's what I want to do."

"It's nice to see a guy like that get a chance to succeed here," Wolf said of James. "He has a good, live arm. He goes after hitters and isn't scared to throw hard. He's a good story."

Wolf, who enjoyed listening to James say, "This is awesome" every five minutes on their Wednesday flight to New York, is hoping to make a lasting impression on the A's after appearing in just four games over a span of six weeks.

"That's the goal," said Wolf, who compiled a 2.45 ERA in those four games. "When I first came up with the Marlins in 2007, I didn't do a good job of that, of proving what I was really capable of. I was only 24 at the time, and I think I've learned a lot since then."

Wolf's return and James' selection was met with the news lefty Cedrick Bowers was outrighted to Sacramento, thus leaving one spot open on the club's 40-man roster.