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Amid an investigation by MLB, Houston Astros’ reliever Hector Neris denied having used an anti-gay slur towards Julio Rodriguez during a game against the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic.
Neris also said that he has complied with MLB and has spoken to people regarding the investigation. He doesn’t believe any punishment should be sent his way.
“That did not happen and any suggestion to the contrary is wrong,” he said in a statement following the initial allegations. “My mother raised me to love and respect people for who they are and that is how I live my life.”
“It’s like if he hit me ‘I got you.’ Today I say ‘I got you,'” he added. “We have had a friendly competition when one beats the other on the field, something that is customary in the Dominican Republic and especially among friends.”
The incident occurred in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game after Neris charged towards Rodriguez and shouted something in his direction after striking him out. The benches eventually cleared and Neris issued an apology following the win.
“My intent in going towards Julio was to get his attention as part of the friendly ongoing banter that we have had over the years,” he said. “I recognize that last night I should not have gone towards him like I did. I did not mean to disrespect him, his family or the Mariners. I do understand how my actions could be interpreted that way.”
Infielder Eugenio Suarez was one of the first players to come out and allege that Neris used a homophobic slur in spanish towards Rodriguez, both of whom are from the Dominican Republic.
“From the beginning, I thought it was a joke, because before today they (had) a really good relationship,” Suarez said. “And then he started talking bad words in Spanish. He started doing something that is not good for people who speak Spanish and understand. I was in the on-deck circle and I heard that. That pissed me off.”
One Mariners’ spokesperson later told reporters that Rodriguez was “shocked” by the incident.
The reigning AL Rookie of the Year has refused to reveal what Neris said and doesn’t plan on forgiving the 34-year-old reliever anytime soon. The pair previously had a good relationship as they worked out together during the pandemic.
“That’s somebody that I had a lot of respect for,” Rodriguez said. “I just feel I deserve a little bit more respect than that.”
If it’s proven that Neris did say a homophobic slur, there is a bit of precedent with how MLB handles these types of situations.
In 2017, the league suspended then-Blue Jays player Kevin Pillar for two games due to the use of homophobic language.