Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

Cole Hamels on track to throw live batting practice next week

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Not much has gone right for the Phillies in the early going. They are 1-3 in the Grapefruit League thus far, having been disappointed several times already by Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Roberto Hernandez wasn’t sharp in his first outing. Jonathan Pettibone has had shoulder problems again. The cherry on top of the sundae, though, was when they learned that Cole Hamels would not be ready for Opening Day due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Thankfully, the Phillies have received a dose of good news about Hamels. He is progressing well and may only miss one or two starts at the beginning of the regular season. He is on track to throw live batting practice next week. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:

“Everything felt really good,” he said at Bright House Field. “My pitches are really coming along. I’m really able to execute down in the zone. I know that’s something Bob [McClure, pitching coach] preaches to everybody. I know I’m pretty good at doing that, so to get into my second bullpen and execute down in the zone, correct pitches within a pitch, having the control, it feels great.”

The Phillies are thin on pitching depth as is, so a healthy and productive Hamels is tantamount to the Phillies remaining at least somewhat competitive throughout the 2014 season. The left-hander finished the past season with a 3.60 ERA in 220 innings, ending a stretch of three consecutive seasons between 2010-12 where he finished with an ERA of 3.06 or lower.

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.