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Jon Lester is already talking World Series

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Red Sox Nation is brimming with confidence these days, and rightly so given the amazing offseason Theo Epstein put together.

They bolstered their bullpen with Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, added Adrian Gonzalez’s big bat to the middle of the lineup and nabbed speed merchant Carl Crawford. So obviously, there is reason for plenty of optimism in Boston.

What’s interesting, though, is that Jon Lester is already talking about the World Series – three weeks before spring training. The Red Sox ace is not the type to go on long-winded (or even medium-winded) rants. Nor is he likely to puff out his chest like an NFL receiver after an 8-yard catch. So his comments to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe should tell you something about how good the Red Sox expect themselves to be this year.

“Mentally and physically, I’m preparing for the World Series,” he said. “I’m doing extra right now to make sure my body holds up for late October. You look at the kind of team we have and I don’t see why (we) can’t get there.”

Lester raved about Wheeler as “one of the best set-up men in the game,” and said the added bonus of having ex-Tampa Bay player Crawford on the team is that he doesn’t have to worry about facing him anymore. The left-hander, who won 19 games last year, also said that the Red Sox are focused and motivated after missing out of the playoffs last season.

We had a good year last year but we didn’t have a great year. Because of the injuries a lot of guys had time off. I think a lot of guys will have a chip on their shoulder.

“There’s a lot to prove in our clubhouse. That can take you a long way as a team.”

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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.