Pirates closer Jason Grilli on track to return Saturday

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From Bill Brink at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette …

Jason Grilli threw another 20-pitch simulated game and said he felt good.

“I would venture a guess that Saturday would be a real strong likely case that I would be out there,” Grilli said.

It was important for Grilli to face major league hitters rather than minor league competition. He said he does not need a rehab assignment.

Grilli has been on the disabled list since April 21 because of a left oblique strain. Mark Melancon has done an admirable job as the Pirates’ fill-in closer over the past four weeks but will presumably slide back into a setup role by early next week.

Grilli has a 2.83 ERA and 40 saves in 149 1/3 innings since joining the Bucs in 2011.

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.