Russell Martin AP

Russell Martin plans to play shortstop for Canada in the World Baseball Classic

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We heard about the possibility earlier this winter, but now it looks like it’s actually gonna happen. Or so Russell Martin tells FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi, anyway.

Martin, 30, has played nearly 1,000 games in the major leagues — not one as a shortstop. But that’s probably going to be his position when he suits up for Canada at next month’s World Baseball Classic.

“It’s hilarious, the reactions I get,” Martin said Monday at the Pirates’ spring complex. “It’s like, ‘This guy’s a catcher. He wants to play shortstop.’ ”

Martin has never played shortstop in the major leagues, but he was a shortstop and third baseman in high school and college. He has logged 75 1/3 at third base in the major leagues and two innings at second, though he hasn’t started a game in the infield since 2008 as a member of the Dodgers. Still, he wants to give it a whirl since Canada doesn’t have a shortstop with extensive major league experience. While it would be cool to see, it could leave Canada vulnerable behind the plate, as Orioles’ minor leaguer Chris Robinson is the only other catcher on the team’s provisional roster.

While Martin notes that “everybody” in Pirates’ camp is “surprised” about his intention to play shortstop, the team supports his choice to participate in the WBC and make the temporary position switch. The 30-year-old signed a two-year, $17 million contract with Pittsburgh over the winter.

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)
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.