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Stephen Strasburg shines in fifth minor league rehab start

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Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg took a big step in the right direction Saturday night at Triple-A Syracuse, hurling five impressive innings of one-run ball in his fifth minor league rehab start.

Strasburg was perfect through five innings before allowing two singles to open the sixth. He was then pulled, and one of those runners later scored.

The 23-year-old fanned seven of the 17 batters he faced, hitting the upper-90s with his fastball and showing improved movement on his breaking pitches. Strasburg only made it to 64 pitches, however, so it’s a near-guarantee that he will be asked to make at least one more rehab appearance.

The current plan — albeit tentative — calls for him to return to the major leagues around September 6.

Strasburg registered a 2.91 ERA and 92/17 K/BB ratio over 68 innings last season as a rookie before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery on September 3 , 2010.

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.