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Carl Crawford aims to play in extended spring training games next week

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The Red Sox might be without Jacoby Ellsbury for at least the next six weeks due to a separated right shoulder, but at least there’s some encouraging news about Carl Crawford to pass along.

According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Crawford took batting practice on the field before yesterday’s home opener against the Rays. He returned to Boston this week to have his sore left elbow checked out, but the condition is not serious and he’s expected to return to Florida this weekend to resume his rehab from January wrist surgery.

While he’ll be eased into action as a designated hitter, Crawford told Abraham that he hopes to begin playing in extended spring training games next week.

“This was the week I was scheduled to play games,’’ he said. “It’s just a little setback. It’s just a strain and we’re going to have to work on it a little bit. I’m guessing I’ll be playing some games next week, hopefully.

It was frustrating because I was looking forward to playing those games. It got pushed back a week, so I’ll just have to wait a little longer and be patient.’’

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine previously estimated that Crawford would likely need at least 50 at-bats between extended spring training and a rehab assignment before coming off the disabled list, so it’s unlikely we’ll see him until May.

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.