Ricky Romero AP

Ricky Romero says his elbow feels “100 times better”

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After finishing sixth in the AL with a 2.92 ERA in 2011, Ricky Romero endured a nightmare campaign last year in which he struggled to the tune of a 5.77 ERA and 124/105 K/BB ratio over 181 innings. While the drop-off was alarming, it was somewhat explained when the southpaw had an elbow cleanup in October and received platelet-rich plasma injections in both of his knees. Now he’s hoping for a big bounce back year.

According to Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com, Romero threw off a mound several times before reporting to Jays’ camp and can already feel the difference with his elbow.

“It feels 100 times better,” said Romero, who avoided the DL in 2012. “I wasn’t able to rotate [the elbow] at one point, I was so sore at the end of the year. That’s when I decided we should get it checked out. Right now, it feels great, pretty much back to how it should feel.

“The knees have been a work in progress. I think that’s been the toughest part, that tendinitis doesn’t go away easily. We’ve been hitting it hard every day, I’m here getting treatment, doing the small things, foam-rolling, stuff like that, just to kind of get them ready every day.”

Encouraging news for a team who clearly sees an opening in the AL East. The Blue Jays strengthened their rotation over the winter by adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, but getting a healthy and effective Romero back would be the equivalent of another significant offseason addition.

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.