Johan Santana AP

Johan Santana throws bullpen session, expected to be named Mets’ Opening Day starter

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Johan Santana is very close to starting his first major league game since September 2, 2010.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Santana made it through a bullpen session this afternoon without any issues and is expected to be named as the Mets’ Opening Day starter tomorrow unless he reports any discomfort in his surgically-repaired shoulder.

Santana labored through a spring-high 88 pitches during his last start Monday against the Cardinals, but Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was impressed by how he looked on the mound this afternoon.

“He was free and easy,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said about Saturday’s bullpen session, which included 39 warm-up pitches, then another 32 at game intensity. “The body didn’t ache. It hasn’t been the arm at any time. It’s been more the wear and tear on the body, getting it back in shape, and then being able to take the volume of pitches. Today he could have pitched very easily [in a game]. The body recovered really well yesterday.

Mets manager Terry Collins admitted that it would mean a lot to have Santana start Thursday’s season opener against the Braves, but he isn’t willing to push him if he needs a couple extra days to get ready.

Santana posted a 3.44 ERA and 13/7 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 innings during Grapefruit League play. The Mets figure to have him on a pretty short leash initially, likely pulling him after 90 pitches or six innings.

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.