Josh Johnson could miss start with sore back

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According to manager Edwin Rodriguez, Josh Johnson is “50-50” to make his scheduled start Friday against the Nationals because of lingering back soreness.
Johnson, who is third in the NL with a 2.30 ERA and fourth with 186 strikeouts, has been dealing with the problem for weeks. While he’s remained solid, he’s missed out on quality starts three times in seven outings since the beginning of August.
Because the Marlins are 8 1/2 games back in the NL East and eight games behind the Phillies in the wild card, it’s possible Johnson will be shut down for the season if his back fails to improve.
With Ricky Nolasco already done for the year, the Marlins have been stretched to find starters lately. Wild left-hander Andrew Miller recently joined the rotation, and veteran minor leaguer Adalberto Mendez made his major league debut by starting the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Mendez was impressive, but he was forced out after six scoreless innings because of a quad injury.
Two other starters, Chris Volstad and Alex Sanabia, will have to serve suspensions later this month because of their roles in last weeks’ brawl with the Nationals.
The Miami Herald reports that Johnson didn’t throw his usual between-starts side session on Tuesday. More will be known about his availability come Wednesday.

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.