Michael Pineda AP

Michael Pineda makes his case for a rotation spot

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Dogged by shoulder issues, Michael Pineda has yet to throw a regular season pitch for the Yankees since being acquired from the Mariners two offseasons ago, but he showed a glimpse of his old form last night.

Making his spring debut, Pineda tossed two scoreless innings in a Grapefruit League game against the Tigers. Topping out at 93 mph with his fastball, he allowed one hit and struck out four while throwing 21 out of 27 pitches for strikes. His slider drew raves from catcher Brian McCann and induced a strikeout from Miguel Cabrera on a check-swing.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn’t want to get carried away with just one outing, but he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he was encouraged with what he saw.

“We like what we saw,” Girardi said. “I don’t want to make too much of it, but I’ve said all along he looks different what we’ve seen this spring compared to a couple springs ago. He’s cleaned up his mechanics a lot. This is a good step.”

Pineda is currently competing with David Phelps and Adam Warren for the fifth spot in the rotation, but it might not be much of a battle if last night is a sign of things to come. It would be a huge boost to the Yankees if he’s finally healthy.

Pineda, 25, posted a 3.74 ERA and 173/55 K/BB ratio over 171 innings as a rookie in 2011.

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.