Stephen Strasburg exits game with injury

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Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg left tonight’s game against the Braves after two innings due to an apparent back injury. The location of the injury is one part good news, one part bad news. The good: it’s not his elbow or shoulder, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes. The bad: Strasburg had dealt with back issues prior to tonight’s start. Kilgore also points out that Strasburg’s velocity dipped from 98 MPH to the mid-90’s within a span of several pitches. Craig Stammen relieved him in the third inning.

Strasburg entered the night with a 2.49 ERA in 72.1 innings, following up on an All-Star season in which he went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. His ouster is particularly worrisome when taken in tandem with the news that Harper continues to be bothered by his left knee and may require a stint on the disabled list.

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.