Scott Kazmir got knocked around by the Astros in his first start of the season, which made it seem like his comeback with the Indians was destined to fail, but he’s actually been pretty good since then and turned in a very impressive start this afternoon against the A’s.
Kazmir tossed six innings of one-run ball versus Oakland, walking zero and striking out 10 for his first double-digit strikeout game since way back in August of 2009. That day he struck out 10 against a Blue Jays lineup that included Marco Scutaro leading off, Vernon Wells batting third, and Kevin Millar hitting cleanup.
Since then Kazmir had thrown 202 innings with a 5.38 ERA and 134/98 K/BB ratio. But now he’s allowed two runs or fewer in three consecutive starts while compiling a 21/3 K/BB ratio in 17 innings. And he’s still just 29 years old.
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.