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Phil Hughes targeting early-July return to the major leagues

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Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News passes along notice that Yankees starter Phil Hughes has been cleared to report to the team’s spring training complex in Tampa to continue his rehabilitation from right arm fatigue. He’ll arrive there Monday.

Hughes has been traveling with his Yankees teammates for the past couple of weeks and threw a live batting practice session on Saturday to backups Chris Dickerson and Francisco Cervelli.

He told the Daily News that the workout went well, and that he’s feeling pretty strong:

“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good and I had no issues throwing. Everything seemed pretty sharp. At this stage, I think that’s pretty much all I can ask for. I’ve said all along I won’t know for sure until I get in a game, but so far everything has been right where I want it. There’s somewhat of a timetable now; I can sort of start to look ahead.”

Hughes will begin participating in extended spring training games within the next few days. If everything goes smoothly, he could begin a minor league rehab assignment by the middle of June.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested last week that Hughes could be back before the All-Star break.

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.