Tony La Russa returns to Cardinals after six-game absence

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UPDATE: As expected, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Tony La Russa has rejoined the Cardinals and will manage tonight’s game.

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Drew wrote yesterday about how Tony La Russa is feeling better after leaving the Cardinals to have his shingles treated and now Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that La Russa ” is expected to return to the dugout for tonight’s series opener against the Phillies.”

La Russa has missed six games while being examined at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, but general manager John Mozeliak told Strauss that the manager could be cleared to return today: “The condition isn’t going to progress. It’s more about what Tony can tolerate.”

Strauss writes that La Russa has been in constant contact with fill-in manager Joe Pettini and felt good enough to tape radio and television shows yesterday. In his absence the Cardinals are 2-4, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.