SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez says he believes the antics of Houston pitcher Hector Neris crossed a line during a contentious confrontation between the two that led to both benches emptying and has Major League Baseball looking into the incident.
The confrontation took place in Wednesday’s game between the Mariners and Astros that Houston eventually won 8-3. Neris struck out Rodríguez to end the sixth inning and determinedly walked and shouted toward Rodríguez after the strikeout.
It quickly became a focal point, especially for the Mariners.
“I feel like you’ve got to keep it respectful and he was someone I had a lot of respect for and known for quite a long time dating back to 2020 during the pandemic and all that. I just feel like I deserve a little more respect on that,” Rodríguez said before Thursday’s game against Texas.
Neris issued a written apology for his actions on Thursday and denied a claim that he used a homophobic slur in the words he said to Rodríguez.
“There were reports that I used a homophobic slur, which are simply incorrect. That did not happen and any suggestion to the contrary is wrong. My mother raised me to love and respect people for who they are and that is how I live my life,” Neris said.
Rodríguez was asked directly if he heard Neris use a slur and declined to answer.
Nevertheless, Rodríguez was taken aback, and seemingly confused and hurt by Neris’ actions, someone who is also from the Dominican Republic and someone until now Rodríguez considered a friend.
“Even though we’ve got friends, once we step on the field we’ve kind of got to forget about that. It’s kind of hard to kind of learn it in that way,” Rodríguez said.
The whole situation played out in the middle of the final game of the regular season between the teams and gave the Astros the upper hand in the race for the final wild card spot in the American League.
Neris struck out Rodríguez to end the sixth inning and started yelling at Seattle’s young All-Star while walking toward home plate. Rodríguez was visibility angered and confused by the pitcher’s actions and both benches emptied.
Neris downplayed the incident immediately after the game before apologizing.
“Julio has been a friend dating back to 2020, when we spent the pandemic working out together. 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. My intent in going toward Julio was to get his attention as part of the friendly ongoing banter that we have had over the years,” Neris said. “I recognize that last night I should not have gone toward 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.
Rodríguez was not interested in hearing apologies. He said Neris attempted to reach out but he wasn’t interested in engaging at this time. Rodríguez also said a home run he hit off Neris last season wasn’t a factor in what happened.
Rodríguez and Neris were teammates on the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team and are represented by the same agency. Asked if he’ll talk to Neris again, Rodríguez said he wasn’t looking forward to it.
“I’m chilling. I’m going to focus on what I need to do here with this team, with this family that we’ve got here,” Rodríguez said.
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