Rays send Jeremy Hellickson back to the minors

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The Rays sent Jeremy Hellickson to Single-A Charlotte following last night’s loss to the Athletics, presumably as punishment for him finally giving up more than two runs.

(Sarcasm, I hope you know.)

Hellickson wasn’t quite as sharp, allowing three runs over 6 1/3 innings as part of a no-decision. The rookie right-hander actually left the game in position for the win, however the bullpen blew it in the bottom of the eighth. He scattered seven hits — including a solo homer by Jack Cust — while striking out seven and walking just one.

Hellickson tallied a very impressive 2.05 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over his first four major league starts, including a stingy 25/4 K/BB ratio in 26 1/3 innings. He has a strong case to stay in the rotation, but Rays manager Joe Maddon told Bill Chastain of MLB.com that the move was expected with Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann on schedule to be activated from the disabled list next week.

“This is something that we talked about in advance. He’s been very much
aware of it. Again, from the outside looking in it might seem awkward or
strange. But from the inside looking out it’s very common sensical. For
us, we had planned on doing it this way. There’s nothing he could have
done to change that. Outside of like somebody being hurt possibly. But
for now we’re getting the other two guys back.” 

Hellickson will pitch out of the bullpen during his time with Single-A Charlotte in anticipation of rejoining the major league team on September 1.

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)
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.