Alex Rodriguez takes batting practice for first time since hand fracture

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The Yankees will be without Mark Teixeira for a little while due to a Grade 1 strain of his left calf, but it’s not all bad news on the injury front.

According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York, Alex Rodriguez took batting practice earlier today for the first time since fracturing his left hand last month. He also ran the bases and fielded grounders. The plan calls for him to go through a similar workout tomorrow.

“So far, so good,” Rodriguez said. “My legs are coming under me, and I see light at the end of the tunnel. My expectation is to come back at full strength and help this team win.”

Rodriguez still has some hurdles to cross, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on “The Michael Kay Show” this afternoon that the veteran third baseman could begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend if all goes well. The regular season ends for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Double-A Trenton on Monday, but both teams are headed for the postseason, so Rodriguez will have the chance to get additional at-bats. The hope is that he could be back before mid-September.

Rodriguez, who turned 37 last month, is hitting .276/.358/.449 with 15 home runs, 44 RBI, 11 stolen bases and an .806 OPS in 94 games played this season.

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.