HOUSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Major League Baseball has suspended the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel without pay for the first five games of the 2018 regular season after the first baseman made a racist gesture during game 3 of the World Series.
Gurriel said he didn’t intend to offend Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish when he pulled on the corners of his eyes after homering against him during Houston’s 5-3 win Friday night.
“I didn’t try to offend nobody,” Gurriel said in Spanish through a translator. “I was commenting to my family that I didn’t have any luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States.”
Gurriel, a 33-year-old from Cuba, made the gesture shortly after homering to start Houston’s four-run second inning. While sitting in the dugout, Gurriel put his fingers to the side of his eyes and said “chinito” — a derogatory Spanish term that translates literally to “little Chinese.”
Darvish was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Iranian father.
The Astros released a statement, saying they support the league’s decision and will donate Gurriel’s salary for the five games to the Astros Foundation and “a charity directly supporting diversity efforts.”
“The Houston Astros were surprised and disappointed by the behavior displayed by Yuli Gurriel during last night’s game. The Astros and Major League Baseball pride ourselves on the diversity of our sport and in showing great respect to all cultures represented by our players, front office staff, fans and members of the media,” the statement read in part. “Yuli has always demonstrated respectful behavior and is extremely remorseful for his actions. Appropriately, Yuli has apologized for his gesture. He had no intention of offending anyone, but now recognized the perceived offensiveness of his actions.”
Gurriel issued a statement of his own, calling his actions “indefensible.”
“I sincerely apologize to everyone that I offended with my actions. I deeply regret it,” he said. “I would particularly like to apologize to Yu Darvish, a pitcher that I admire and respect. I would also like to apologize to the Dodgers organization, the Astros, Major League Baseball and to all fans across the game.”
The league has recently suspended players caught using slurs. Toronto’s Kevin Pillar and Oakland’s Matt Joyce were each banned for two games this season after making anti-gay comments.
Gurriel said the derogatory term is used commonly in Cuba to refer to Asian people. He said he knows the Japanese are offended by it because he played in Japan in 2014.
“In the moment, I didn’t want to offend him or nobody in Japan because I have a lot of respect for them and I played in Japan,” he said, adding that, “I didn’t mean to do it.”
Darvish played professionally in Japan from 2005-11 before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was traded to the Dodgers at this year’s July 31 trade deadline. He was angry about what happened.
“Acting like that, you just disrespect all the people around the world,” he said in Japanese through a translator.
Gurriel hopes to speak with Darvish about what happened.
“Yes, of course. I want to talk to him because I have nothing against him,” he said. “I think he’s one of the best pitchers in Japan, and I never had success against him. … If he felt offended, I want to apologize to him.”
Gurriel spent 15 years in the Cuban professional league and played in Japan for a year before signing with the Astros last season. Gurriel homered and doubled in Game 3 and is batting .346 in the postseason.
“I know he’s remorseful,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
Some of Darvish’s former teammates with the Rangers called out Gurriel for his actions on Twitter. Pitcher Jake Diekman used an emoji to call the gesture trash, and outfielder Ryan Rua said “really hope that gesture from Gurriel wasnt directed towards Yu…no place for that.”
Darvish hopes the incident can be a learning experience.
“Nobody’s perfect and everybody is different and then … we just … have to learn from it,” he said. “And then he made a mistake and then we’re just going to learn from it. We are all human beings. That’s what I’m saying, so just learn from it and we’ve got to go forward, move forward.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)