Jason Beck of MLB.com passes along word that Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal has been shut down from the Venezuelan Winter League due to a sore elbow.
Villareal tossed three scoreless innings over three appearances with Caribes de Anzoategui before first complaining about his elbow in mid-December. Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reported that he was immediately brought back to the United States for tests, which revealed inflammation but no structural damage. That report has since been confirmed by the Tigers.
Villareal was originally expected to resume throwing yesterday, which would have left open the possibility of him pitching during the playoffs, but the Tigers have decided to play things safe and have him focus on being ready for spring training. The 25-year-old right-hander also dealt with some inflammation in his elbow back in August, so it’s tough to blame them.
Villareal posted a 2.63 ERA and 66/28 K/BB ratio over 54 2/3 innings last season. Armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s, he projects to pitch in middle relief again in 2013, but the opportunity could be there for him to earn a more prominent late-inning role.
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.