Neftali Feliz

Shoulder stiffness leads to Neftali Feliz’s early exit

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Neftali Feliz, who is making the switch from the closer’s role to the rotation this spring, came out of his start Tuesday against the Cubs after three innings due to right shoulder stiffness.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some details:

Feliz had pitched three scoreless innings on 49 pitches against the Cubs and was scheduled to go four innings or about 65 pitches. His fastball was at 90-92 mph in the first inning when he relied on the sinker, but he was more regularly at 95 mph later in the outing and topped out at 97.

Feliz also worked as a starter for part of last spring before shifting back to the closer’s role for Texas. He went on to struggle in the first half, during which he also missed a couple of weeks with shoulder inflammation, but he improved as the year went on.

It will be interesting to see what Texas does with Feliz now seemingly likely to start the year on the DL. Alexi Ogando was expected to be in the rotation before the Yu Darvish signing, and he’s obviously deserving of the spot after his strong performance last year. But if Feliz is only going to miss a couple of weeks, it’d probably make more sense to leave Ogando in the pen and let Scott Feldman take the couple of spot starts next month.

And as for Feliz, this isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. The Rangers wanted to keep him under 150 innings this year anyway, so they’ll be extra cautious. If he doesn’t start a game for the team until May, well, that just makes it more likely that he’ll be a factor into September and, hopefully, the postseason.

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.