ATLANTA - Chuck James says he's ready when needed to fill a vacant spot in the Atlanta Braves' rotation.
The Braves likely will activate James from the disabled list next week to fill the rotation spot left vacant when Mike Hampton suffered a strained left pectoral muscle in warmups before Thursday night's game.
The Braves placed Hampton on the 15-day disabled list Friday, retroactive to Sunday, and recalled left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes from Richmond. The team would have to make another move to clear a spot for James.
Thanks to Friday night's Braves-Mets rainout, Hampton's next turn in the rotation would have been Wednesday at Colorado.
Manager Bobby Cox said he plans to give that start to James, who opened the season on the disabled list.
James was found to have a slight tear in his rotator cuff after last season, but he said Friday 'without a doubt' he is ready to pitch.
Reyes competed with James for the rotation spot won by rookie Jair Jurrjens in spring training, but Reyes was recalled to give the bullpen a fresh arm. Cox said Reyes was the only middle reliever available on Friday night.
The Braves used seven pitchers on Thursday night after Hampton couldn't make the start and went through 23 pitchers in the three-game series with Pittsburgh, a Braves record for three games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, before this week the Braves had never used more than 21 pitchers in three games.
James, who has won 11 games each of the last two seasons, said more rest between starts will help his shoulder.
'I think probably the biggest thing for me is just cutting down on the throwing between starts,' James said. 'I think that's where I got in all the trouble last year in the first place.
'I was throwing 70 or 80 pitches in the bullpen trying to get back to being comfortable with my mechanics. I think it hurt me even more. My mechanics felt weird and I was going out there with what felt like two days rest instead of the four.'
James threw a simulated game at Class A Rome last Tuesday and said his arm hasn't yet been tested this year in what felt like a real game.
'In spring training, I threw most of my starts on the minor league field,' he said. 'We'll see where I'm at, but I won't ever get on the mound and hold back. I should be fine. I've thrown all spring and haven't had any problems.'
Gotay still has love for Mets
Braves infielder Ruben Gotay, claimed off waivers from the Mets last week, was swarmed by New York beat writers in Atlanta's clubhouse on Friday.
Gotay said it was strange to face his former teammates so soon after being cut by the Mets.
'They know I love them,' Gotay said. 'They know they're my boys. But gametime is gametime. I'm going to play hard to win.'
Gotay was emotional after being cut by the Mets, saying he thought he earned a roster spot. But he said he wouldn't try to prove a point in the series.
'They know I can play and I can do my job,' Gotay said. 'They made the move.
'Sorry for them, but I'm going to win now. Anytime I get out there I'm playing to win.'
Johnson still mending
The Braves' lineup did not include Kelly Johnson, still recovering from a sore right knee. He hasn't played since leaving Monday's game in the fourth inning.
Martin Prado would have made his third straight start at second base for Johnson, though Cox's lineup had Prado hitting eighth instead of leadoff, his spot the last two games. Shortstop Yunel Escobar would have hit leadoff.
Johnson said his knee felt better, but not dramatically better.
'I'm just hoping I'll wake up and it'll feel a whole lot better than the day before,' he said.