Aroldis Chapman AP

Aroldis Chapman likely to face live hitters Wednesday

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Aroldis Chapman is about to face his most important test yet in his recovery from facial fractures, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the hard-throwing left-hander will likely throw live batting practice Wednesday.

Chapman threw 45 pitches Sunday in a bullpen session, so the Reds want to make sure he feels good before committing to a specific day. However, if he goes ahead and pitches on Wednesday as planned, Reds manager Bryan Price believes that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.

“He’s increased 10 pitches incrementally,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s thrown all his pitches — fastball, slider, change. There’s really no concern at this point in time that his arm and body aren’t ready to pitch.

“But it’s like anything else: He threw (Sunday) we’ve got to see how he responds. I would say it’s likely that he throws Wednesday in live batting practice. But if there’s any concern, we would push it back.”

Chapman suffered fractures above his left eye and nose when he was hit in the face by a comebacker off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez on March 19. He needed surgery to have a plate inserted in his forehead.

The Reds are using the recently-activated Jonathan Broxton as their fill-in closer right now, but Chapman could be ready to return by mid-May if all goes well.

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.