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MESA, Ariz. — A year ago at this time, the thought of right-hander Yu Darvish pitching for the Chicago Cubs — as he will for the first time in spring training on Thursday — was a pipe dream.

It was shortly after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 that Darvish and his agents added the Cubs, as well as their World Series opponent, the Cleveland Indians, to the list of teams the pitcher didn’t want to be traded to. But the decision wasn’t a slight to the Cubs: Darvish simply didn’t want to be dealt away from the Texas Rangers, and he thought Chicago and Cleveland were two franchises likely to try to make a move for him.

It was his free-agent-audition year in 2017, and he figured he would play one more season for the Rangers and then entertain offers. When the Los Angeles Dodgers provided a chance at a World Series ring just before the trade deadline, Darvish changed his mind and became open to a trade. Going to Los Angeles didn’t change his stance on free agency, though, so he listened when the Cubs came calling.

“It was the very first team I had a meeting with,” Darvish said through his interpreter at Cubs camp. “They were very serious about acquiring me. My agents told me how great the team is and how the fans are first-class. Just the whole environment is first-class.”

The Cubs’ pursuit of Darvish picked up after the winter meetings, as the front office realized an opportunity was at hand. With teams such as the Dodgers and New York Yankees slashing payroll instead of adding it, the Cubs thought they could get Darvish at a lower price than they’d previously envisioned. A face-to-face meeting in Dallas proved to be the key moment between the sides.

“As far as I can tell, he went into this process with a really open-minded, intelligent approach,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week. “He wanted to get to know people and learn as much as possible.”

Coincidentally, the Cubs weren’t far removed from selling their team to another Japanese pitcher, Shohei Ohtani, who ultimately chose the Los Angeles Angels. But the negotiations with Darvish had a different feel than the Ohtani pitch.

“Largely baseball-centric,” Epstein said in describing the pitch to Darvish. “We wanted to show him how we get our pitchers ready and how we put them in a position to succeed and our track record of doing that and the approach we would take with him. Another focus was just the culture here and how we make the players the most important people in the organization.”

When things were going well in the meeting, Epstein lightened the mood by pulling out the 150-page brochure the team put together for the Ohtani meeting. As a joke, Epstein put masking tape over Ohtani’s name on the cover and wrote “Darvish.” The gag went over well, with Darvish getting to read about the organization from the same pages Ohtani did.

Darvish got back at Epstein for the gag a little this week with his deadpan answer to the question of why the Cubs were on his no-trade list last season.

“Because I never really liked Theo Epstein,” Darvish joked with a straight face.

Even though the reality was that the no-trade-list decision was a player-agent chess move, that comment is a good indication of a sense of humor that those close to Darvish describe as sarcastic and dry.

Communication between both sides helped make the pitcher feel comfortable enough to join the Cubs without visiting Chicago before signing.

“Only during the season I’ve been there,” Darvish said. “I didn’t need to go in the offseason. I have an idea what Chicago is like. They were really frequent with communicating. There were no gaps or anything. They were very approachable.”

The back-and-forth included emails directly from Cubs brass to Darvish, who stayed involved to the very end.

Once the Cubs were able to add a sixth year to spread out the annual salary, the sides came to an agreement, and the once-impossible thought of “Darvish” on the back of a Cubs jersey became a reality.

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San Diego Padres acquire All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier from Pittsburgh Pirates, sources say

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The San Diego Padres are acquiring second baseman Adam Frazier from the Pittsburgh Pirates, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Frazier, 29, who leads baseball in hits this year, is not a free agent until after the 2022 season.

In exchange, the Pirates are acquiring right-hander Michell Miliano, shortstop Tucupita Marcano and outfielder Jack Suwinski, a source told ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel.

Pittsburgh is also sending approximately $1.4 million to the Padres in the deal, according to The Associated Press.

Frazier entered Sunday hitting .327 — the second-best average in Major League Baseball — with four home runs and 32 RBIs.

A 2020 Gold Glove finalist and an All-Star this season, Frazier was the Pirates’ second-longest tenured player, behind right fielder Gregory Polanco.

When asked about possibly being traded a week ago, Frazier said he wasn’t letting it distract him.

“It’s pretty cool to be recognized like that and have teams want you,” Frazier said. “It means a lot. It tells you you’re playing well, but I still have to worry about playing baseball.”

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With his wife preparing to play for Olympic gold, Jake Reed claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jake Reed switched teams while his wife was with the U.S. softball team at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 28-year-old reliever was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday and optioned to Triple-A Durham.

Reed, a right-hander with a submarine delivery, made his major league debut on July 6 and had a 3.38 ERA in five relief appearances and one start. He was designated for assignment on Wednesday by the Dodgers.

Janie Reed is the starting left fielder and No. 2 hitter on the U.S. team, which plays Japan for the softball gold medal on Tuesday.

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Boston Red Sox end Domingo German’s no-hit bid in 8th inning, storm back to beat New York Yankees

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BOSTON — Domingo German was simply dominating the Boston Red Sox. Never more so than in the seventh inning, when the New York Yankees right-hander struck out stars J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and rookie Jarren Duran.

As German walked off the mound then with a no-hitter intact and a solid lead, there was no way to envision what was on deck.

Held hitless into the eighth by German and looking feeble, Alex Verdugo and the Red Sox suddenly erupted for five runs to shake Fenway Park and storm past New York 5-4 on Sunday.

The old ballpark was almost silent all afternoon, until Verdugo opened the eighth with a long double for Boston’s first hit, and he raised his arms in celebration at second base.

By the time Kike Hernandez slid home headfirst on Xander Bogaerts‘ sacrifice fly with the go-ahead run to cap the rally, fans were fired up.

“I felt like just getting that hit out of the way had everybody just take that big deep breath, didn’t have to worry about getting no-hit anymore,” Verdugo said. “That inning was crazy. From going no-hit to seven innings to putting five up in the eighth, that’s one of the craziest comebacks I’ve ever been a part of.”

With their major league-leading 32nd come-from-behind victory, the Red Sox reclaimed first place in the American League East, a game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the Red Sox’s 10th win in 13 games this year against their rivals, and it erased a tough 4-3 loss on Saturday, when New York scored four times in the eighth.

What a difference a few hits made. Before those, it was pretty glum in the Boston dugout, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“Not great, to be honest with you,” Cora said. “Whoever says, ‘We’re a hit away or a baserunner away from getting this going’ … I didn’t sense that. I sensed a lot of frustrated people. [German] was amazing.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, absorbed another brutal loss in a season full of them. They dropped three of four in the series and fell nine games behind Boston. The Yankees now have three losses this season when they’ve led by four or more runs in the eighth inning or later. That ties the most such defeats in a single season in franchise history, and it’s the first time they’ve had three such losses since 1993, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“Really tough one, obviously. Domingo was terrific,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s a tough one we’ve got to get past. Another extremely tough one.”

Boston trailed 4-0 when Verdugo doubled to deep right, and German was lifted after the hit by Boone.

“You know to pitch a no-hitter is one of the hardest things to do in baseball,” German said through an interpreter. “I knew I had a no-hitter going. I was executing pitches to try and be as careful as possible. Verdugo was able to connect there. I thought it was a good pitch.”

Jonathan Loaisiga (7-4) relieved, and Boston broke loose with four straight hits. Hunter Renfroe had an RBI double, Christian Vazquez singled home a run and Hernandez followed with an RBI double, cutting it to 4-3.

Zack Britton relieved, and pinch hitter Kevin Plawecki‘s groundout plated the tying run. Hernandez hustled hard and beat right fielder Greg Allen‘s throw home on Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly.

“It’s a bad day for me. It’s tough,” Loaisiga said through an interpreter. “It hurts because you had the starter pitching strong. You come into the game hoping to do your job and it doesn’t work out.”

German was trying for the first no-hitter by an opponent at Fenway since the Detroit Tigers‘ Jim Bunning in 1958, when he retired fellow future Hall of Famer Ted Williams on a fly for the final out.

Mixing his well-spotted fastball in the mid-90 mph range with a changeup and curveball, the 28-year-old German struck out 10 and walked just one.

With a 3-0 lead, he began the seventh by fanning Duran. Bogaerts also struck out, swinging at a passed ball that prolonged the inning. German struck out Devers and Martinez, with all four strikeouts coming on third-strike swings.

There have been seven no-hitters in the majors this year, one short of the big league record set in 1884, the first season that overhand pitching was allowed.

There were two near misses on Saturday night: Patrick Sandoval of the Los Angeles Angels got his bid broken up with one out in the ninth at the Minnesota Twins; and Framber Valdez and the Houston Astros‘ bullpen took a try into the eighth.

Brandon Workman (1-2) earned the win for Boston on Sunday, and Matt Barnes got the final three outs for his 21st save.

“It was a pretty special comeback,” Hernandez said.

Rougned Odor had a solo homer and an RBI single for New York. He popped up with a runner on second to end it.

Yankees infielder Gio Urshela, activated from the COVID-19 injured list before the game, had an RBI single to make it 2-0 in the fourth after Gleyber Torres doubled and advanced on a sacrifice.

Odor’s bloop, run-scoring single had made it 1-0 in the third.

Boston starter Martin Perez gave up three runs over six innings, striking out six and walking two.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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