A.J. Burnett rocked for 12 runs in this season’s worst pitching performance

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A.J. Burnett pitched well in his first two starts after returning from a fractured orbital bone, coming off the disabled list with seven shutout innings on April 21 and then tossing six innings of two-run ball on April 27.

Those seven scoreless frames came against St. Louis, but last night that same Cardinals lineup clobbered Burnett for 12 runs in 2.2 innings as his ERA rose from 1.38 to 8.04.

In taking the ugly loss Burnett becomes the first pitcher this season (and the first pitcher in nearly an entire calendar year) to allow a dozen or more runs. Jaime Garcia was the last to do so on May 28 of last year and Vin Mazzaro also allowed 14 runs in a game last season, but amazingly did so in a relief appearance as the Royals basically just made him serve as a punching bag.

During the past 10 seasons a pitcher has allowed 12 or more runs a total of just 11 times, including zero instances in 2009, 2004, and 2002. Jason Marquis and Jon Garland remarkably both accomplished that feat twice in that time, which I suppose gives Burnett something to do shoot for.

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.