Brian Matusz knocked around in first start since demotion to minors

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Brian Matusz was demoted to the minors last week after posting an 8.77 ERA over his first six starts. The young left-hander had his first start back at Triple-A Norfolk last night and according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, it didn’t go so well.

Matusz allowed four runs on seven hits (including two home runs) over 5 2/3 innings in a loss to Triple-A Charlotte. He threw 51 out of 87 pitches for strikes while striking out three, walking two and throwing a wild pitch.

Matusz, who began the year on the disabled list with an intercostal strain, allowed nine home runs over just 25 2/3 innings before being sent to the minor leagues last week. It’s easy to say there was some bad luck involved there, but when you consider that the velocity on his fastball is down three MPH from last season, opposing batters are clearly having no problem squaring him up right now.

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.