Neshek feeling good after Tommy John surgery

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Pat Neshek reported to the Twins’ spring training complex early to get back on the mound and face live hitters again 14 months after Tommy John elbow surgery. And because he’s a blogger in addition to being a side-arming setup man, Neshek wrote an interesting update on his progress:

On Tuesday I faced hitters for the first time and things went great. One of the hitters I faced back in November … said that I had a lot more zip on the ball this time around. … On Friday I faced hitters again. It took me a couple days to get over the soreness, normal soreness I should say from pitching a couple innings worth of hitters.



My velocity felt good but I felt like it still wasn’t where I was at during my peak. On the other hand my slider was a ton better and got some remarks from the hitters. I asked both guys what they thought my velocity was and they said I was sitting most likely around 88-89 on my fastball. … With this injury you slowly get your velo back by doing more and more mound work and feeling comfortable with mechanics. I was really happy because in November my fastball high speeds were 85 & 86.

Prior to the injury Neshek had a 2.91 ERA, 143 strikeouts, and .188 opponents’ batting average in 121 innings while averaging just 89.9 miles per hour with his fastball, so it sounds like most of his velocity has already returned. Minnesota has made a bunch of nice moves this offseason, but getting Neshek back at something resembling his old self could push the Twins over the top in the AL Central.
Oh, and speaking of Neshek, he gets some pretty amazing “fan” mail.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.