Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau is healthy, but hitting just .223 with one homer in concussion comeback

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The biggest question mark facing the Twins coming into the season was whether Justin Morneau would be in the lineup after missing the final three months of last season following a concussion.

Morneau got a late start in spring training, got a few days off early in the schedule, and has spent more time at designated hitter than ever before, but he’s been free of post-concussion symptoms while starting 34 of the Twins’ first 40 games.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit.

Morneau, who was batting .345 with a 1.055 OPS at the time of the concussion last July, has hit just .223 with one homer and a .617 OPS this season. In addition to non-existent power and a batting average 60 points below his career norms Morneau is also striking out more than usual and walking less than ever before.

This could be just an optimistic Twins fan talking, but Morneau has seemed fairly unlucky in terms of hard-hit balls hauled in by outfielders in the gaps, and his .264 batting average on balls in play is 30 points below his career mark. However, he’s also hitting fewer line drives and fewer deep fly balls, and Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy broke down Morneau’s swing mechanics and found that they’ve changed for the worse, which along with timing issues following nine months on the sidelines has led to his lack of production.

Morneau’s health was the elephant in the room all offseason, yet so far he’s been healthy, nearly everyone else on the roster has been injured, and the Twins have the worst record in baseball. It’s been that kind of season in Minnesota.

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.