Angels to keep struggling Ervin Santana on “out count”

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Ervin Santana’s brutal season continued Saturday, as he failed to make it out of the second inning against the Rangers while serving up three homers and allowing six runs.

Santana is now 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA and 23 homers allowed in 111 innings and the Angels are 5-14 when he starts compared to 47-30 when anyone else takes the mound.

And yet instead of simply dumping Santana from the rotation manager Mike Scioscia will continue to start him every fifth day while putting him on an “out count.” Rather than limiting his pitches Scioscia has decided to keep Santana in the game for 15 outs–in other words, five innings–at which point he’ll be removed for a reliever.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes that the idea is to keep Santana from having to go through a lineup for a fourth time while giving him more leeway to be aggressive. He also notes that Scioscia employed a similar strategy with a struggling Scott Kazmir and … well, he’s now pitching in an independent league at age 28, so suffice it to say the “out count” didn’t work any magic on Kazmir.

It’s also worth noting that Santana has averaged 17.5 outs per start this season and failed to record even six outs in two of his last three starts. Having to go through the lineup for a third and fourth time hasn’t really been the issue.

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.