Los Angeles Dodgers batter Andre Ethier reacts in the dugout after he struck out against the New York Mets during their MLB National League baseball game in New York

Andre Ethier not expected to play center field at start of NLCS

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UPDATE: While the Dodgers were hopeful that Andre Ethier would be able to start in center field when the NLCS begins, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler reports that he’s not expected to be ready by then. However, the good news is that his ankle has improved enough where he likely won’t need a pinch-runner if he gets on base.

10:47 a.m. ET: Similar to the Cardinals waiting on Allen Craig’s health status, the Dodgers are hoping to have Andre Ethier fully available for the NLCS.

Ethier hasn’t been in the starting lineup since September 13, when he aggravated a leg injury, and went 0-for-3 as a pinch-hitter in the NLDS. However, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com Ethier “was running down fly balls in the gap Wednesday as the Dodgers worked out at Dodger Stadium” and might start in center field versus the Cardinals.

Even when fully healthy Ethier is very stretched defensively in center field, so it’s hard to imagine him covering much ground coming off a lengthy absence for a leg injury, but then again he simply needs to be better than Skip Schumaker to provide an upgrade for the Dodgers.

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.