John Lackey throws Quality Start, denies need for surgery

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During a radio interview yesterday Peter Gammons speculated about whether John Lackey’s struggles and elbow problems could lead to his needing Tommy John surgery, but then last night Lackey tossed 7.2 innings of two-run ball against the Phillies and denied the need for surgery.

Lackey told reporters that Gammons “straight made that up” and then asked them, “What did it look like tonight?”

However, general manager Theo Epstein explained to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston that the Red Sox “are not hiding that he had an elbow injury” and will “monitor him and make sure those symptoms don’t come back.”

Lackey has a 5.28 ERA in five starts since spending time on the disabled list with a strained elbow that required a cortisone shot and Epstein gave an interesting answer when asked if he’d classify the injury as a torn ligament:

Again, first off almost every pitcher by standard definition has a tear in his shoulder or elbow. That’s the nature of throwing a baseball. I think it’s accurate to say he had an elbow injury, he was given a shot for it to alleviate the symptoms and we monitor it closely.

Terry Francona took a much more sarcastic approach to Gammons’ speculation, saying: “We don’t usually work six weeks ahead on surgery. Go get ’em, Lack. You’ve got six more starts and then you’ll need Tommy John.”

Oh, and in addition to making $15.25 million this season Lackey is also still owed $15.25 million in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).