Yu Darvish

No no-hitter, but Yu Darvish continued to dominate on Friday

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish once again flirted with a perfect game on Friday against the Red Sox and once again fell one out short of history. The right-hander has a penchant for doing this, even tossing five perfect innings against the Astros in his second start to open this season before a lead-off single in the sixth dashed his hopes.

A brief look at the list of pitchers to have thrown no-hitters will leave you unimpressed. Henderson Alvarez was the most recent to accomplish the feat on the last game of the 2013 regular season. Kevin Millwood — he of the career 4.11 ERA — was involved in two no-hitters: one by himself in April 2003 with the Phillies, and a tandem effort with the Mariners’ bullpen in June 2012. Phil Humber and Dallas Braden each threw a perfect game. Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza threw no-hitters in 2010.

Statistically speaking, the odds of anyone throwing a no-hitter over the course of the season are greater than you’d think. The odds of a Humber-type throwing one are smaller than that of Darvish, but practically speaking, they are indistinguishable. Anyone can get lucky on one night. Remember Mark Whiten’s four-homer game? It takes real skill to routinely flirt with history as Darvish does seemingly every month.

In Friday night’s start against the Red Sox, Darvish allowed the one hit, walked two, and struck out 12 in 8 2/3 innings of work. The 27-year-old has started only 68 games in the Major Leagues and has recorded double-digit strikeouts in 20 of them. On average, Darvish has struck out 10 or more batters once every three or four starts. He has allowed exactly one hit in four starts now. Clayton Kershaw, the consensus best pitcher in baseball right now, has done it four times in 184 starts. The lefty has recorded double-digit strikeouts in 22 of his 184 starts, or about once every eight starts.

Darvish is in his third full season in the big leagues, but if you don’t already, it’s time to start thinking of Darvish in the upper echelon of pitchers — with Kershaw, with Jose Fernandez, with Felix Hernandez, with Zack Greinke. The guy has been trying his damndest to convince you with a no-hitter, but the baseball gods won’t allow him. Give the guy a hand.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.