Bryce Harper goes 1-for-3 in Grapefruit League debut

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The Nationals are said to be open to the idea of top prospect Bryce Harper opening the 2012 season in the major leagues. So while most spring training stats don’t matter, Harper’s numbers just might.

According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the 19-year-old outfielder went 1-for-3 with a single and two sharp groundouts Saturday in the Nats’ Grapefruit League opener against the Astros.

After the game — a 3-1 loss — Harper addressed the rumblings that he has a chance of breaking camp with the big league club:

“I don’t even think about it when I go out there,” Harper told reporters. “If I play my game and do things right, I’ve got a shot. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m just going to roll with what I get. … I’m just out there playing. Just trying to get at-bats, trying to see pitches.”

Harper has compiled a .297/.392/.501 batting line, 17 home runs, 24 doubles and 26 stolen bases in 109 career minor league games. He’s been named Baseball America‘s No. 1 prospect two years in a row.

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.