Bryce Harper shaves beard after BP and slugs home run; benches clear in next at-bat

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Bryce Harper apparently didn’t feel right during batting practice on Tuesday evening at Nationals Park, so he shaved clean before first pitch and then launched a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to push the Nats ahead of the Braves 1-0, but Atlanta won 2-1 for a season-high 12th straight win.

Here, via Getty Images, is a photo of Harper and his growing beard from a couple weeks ago:

source: Getty Images

And here’s the replay of Harper going deep to dead center. Notice the lengthy initial trot:

Harper was hit in the thigh by Braves pitcher Julio Teheran on the first pitch of his next at-bat. He pointed toward Teheran and the benches cleared, but no punches were thrown. Busy night for the 20-year-old.

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.