Chris Carpenter scheduled to begin rehab assignment on Monday with Double-A Springfield

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As first reported Wednesday evening by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, veteran right-hander Chris Carpenter has been cleared to start a minor league rehab assignment on Monday with the Cardinals’ Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri.

Carpenter threw over 100 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium and reported no physical issues. He has been out all season — and was not expected to pitch at all in 2013 — due to lingering symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, but there have been no major issues thus far and his timetable to return to the major leagues will depend mostly on how well he pitches down on the farm.

Carpenter, 38, made only three regular-season starts in 2012 and three starts during the postseason. He pitched a league-high 237 1/3 innings in 2011 and then made six grueling starts in those playoffs.

If everything goes smoothly on his rehab assignment — which is far from a sure thing — Carpenter could become the Cardinals’ fifth starter by early August. Joe Kelly is currently filling that role.

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.