Phillies may not hand closer duties back to Brad Lidge right away

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Brad Lidge tossed a scoreless inning at Single-A yesterday in his third rehab appearance and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said afterward that “he threw extremely well.”
“He took a nice step forward,” Amaro said. “His slider was tighter. He had better location. I guess his velocity was 90-91. He felt good. He was much sharper and crisper.”
However, when asked about the Phillies’ plans once Lidge is ready to come off the disabled list manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he may not be handed the closer job right away:

We could, depending on where he’s at and how he’s doing. It’s something to talk about. But I don’t know what we’re going to do. It depends on how we’re doing and where we’re at with our pitching. We want to do what’s best for Lidge and the team. First, we’ve got to get him back. We want him healthy, feeling 100 percent. If he’s 100 percent, he’ll have a good feeling about himself.

Amaro had a slightly different take, saying: “He’s our closer. He’s been our closer. He never stopped being our closer.” However, the GM also added that the decision is ultimately Manuel’s to make. “He’ll be used in whatever way Charlie and [pitching coach] Rich [Dubee] feel is best for the club. I assume he’ll be our closer, but it’s up to those guys.”
It’d be one thing if Lidge was coming back from an injury after his amazing 2008 season, but instead he’s coming back following one of the worst seasons by a closer in baseball history. Even without the injuries involved the Phillies would be right to think twice about returning him to the closer role after 11 blown saves and an absurd 7.21 ERA in 58.2 innings.

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.