Justin Verlander underwent surgery after tearing a muscle while conditioning

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This is not the kind of offseason news the Tigers needed: Justin Verlander underwent muscle repair surgery today after injuring himself last month during offseason conditioning. It was surgery to “a core muscle” but which muscle was injured was not specified. The surgery was said to be successful, as all surgeries are on the day they are performed, it seems.

The bad news: Verlander will need about six weeks of rehab before being evaluated again. And, one presumes, before beginning any baseball activity. Pitchers and catchers for the Tigers report on February 14, so Verlander is going to be behind his teammates, even if everything goes well.

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.