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.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.