Nick Tepesch

Dust has almost settled in Rangers rotation battle

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Kyle McClellan on the disabled list due to a ribcage injury. Martin Perez on the disabled list due to a fractured left forearm. Robbie Ross moved to the bullpen recently. Justin Grimm and Randy Wells sent to Triple-A.

The Rangers have had a lot of moving parts as they attempted to find a suitable candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation. Now, the single red rose can go to one of two finalists: prospect Nick Tepesch and veteran Derek Lowe, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan:

But Washington is still holding off naming Tepesch as the fifth starter. Lowe allows him to do that. Lowe has made three starts for the Rangers and is up to 60 pitches. He could make two more starts — including one in extended spring training after Opening Day — and be up to 90 pitches when the Rangers need a fifth starter on April 9 against the Rays.

The Rangers would rather have Lowe in the bullpen. They are ready to commit to Tepesch as their fifth starter. They just aren’t ready to make the official announcement.

Lowe posted a 5.52 ERA as a starter with the Cleveland Indians, but moved to the bullpen when he was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees in mid-August. He had significantly more success as a reliever, posting a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings. As for Tepesch, he got his first taste of Double-A competition with Frisco last year, posting a 4.28 ERA in 90.1 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.