From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Yunel Escobar insisted he meant no insult, reiterating that the words he wrote were supposed to be "just a joke."The Toronto Blue Jays had a different read, suspending their starting shortstop for three games on Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.Escobar apologized to his team and "to all those who have been offended.""It was not something I intended to be offensive," he said through a translator. "It was not anything intended to be directed at anyone in particular."Escobar said he wrote the message 10 minutes before Saturday's home game on his eye-black, a sticker players wear under their eyes to reduce sun glare. The 29-year-old Cuban said he frequently puts messages there -- usually inspirational, manager John Farrell offered -- and had never previously written that specific slur.Escobar insisted the word is often used within teams and by Latinos and "I didn't see it as something bad at the time.""For us, it doesn't have the significance to the way it's being interpreted now," he said. "It's a word without a meaning.""I don't have anything against homosexuals," he said, adding he didn't mean for the term to be "misinterpreted" by the gay community.The suspension -- issued after input from Commissioner Bud Selig, the players' union and team management -- was to have started Tuesday night. The game between Toronto and New York was rained out and a day-night doubleheader was set for Wednesday.The penalty was announced in a 26-minute news conference at Yankee Stadium. Escobar wore a jacket and jeans and was joined by Farrell, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos, coach Luis Rivera and translator Robbie Guerra, a lawyer from the players' union.Escobar's lost salary during the ban -- about 82,000 -- will be directed to two advocacy groups, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and You Can Play.Escobar also will take part in an outreach initiative to promote tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and participate in a sensitivity training program.Pictures posted online showed Escobar with the message written during the Red Sox-Blue Jays game. Farrell said Escobar's notes are often to the effect of "Let's go today." They draw so little attention that nobody caught the change."There was no reason to think it was something derogatory," Farrell said.Farrell said the slur was written in small letters and "if someone had seen it, I would suspect someone would have said something."Major League Baseball regulations prohibit derogatory words and symbols on uniforms. Writing something of that nature on eye-black would fall under that category, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.The NFL and college football have banned eye-black messages. The college ban came after stars including Tim Tebow, who wrote Bible verses, and Reggie Bush, who put his hometown area code, began to use the eye-black to send messages."Mr. Escobar has admitted that his actions were a mistake and I am hopeful he can use this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to educate himself and others that intolerance has no place in our game or society," Selig said in a statement.GLAAD President Herndon Graddick commended the decision."Today's actions show that MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays are committed to creating an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where discriminatory language and anti-gay attitudes are accepted," Graddick said in a statement.Anthopoulos said he had spent most of the day with Escobar at the commissioner's office."I don't know there's a right way to deal with these things," he said. "You're not going to satisfy everyone."In May 2011, MLB suspended Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell for two weeks without pay for inappropriate comments and gestures with homophobic and sexual overtones he made toward fans before a game in San Francisco.In April, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games by his team because of comments that he loves Fidel Castro. Many Cuban-Americans were angered by the remarks.On Tuesday, Guillen said he didn't think Escobar meant to be offensive."I think he just did it for fun. I know he didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. Nobody is that stupid," he said before the Marlins hosted Atlanta."In my house, we call (each other) that word every 20 seconds. I've got three kids," Guillen said. "For us, it's like What's up, bro? What's up, dude?' It's how you say it and to who you say it. But that's our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it's funny, for other people it's not."Escobar was traded from Atlanta to Toronto in July 2010. He is hitting .251 this season with nine home runs and 49 RBIs.Escobar's salary this year is 5 million. The Blue Jays have club options on him for 2014 and 2015.
BALTIMORE – Zach Britton had an MRI on his left ankle Monday, and no damage was found, and three days after injuring the ankle, he says he’s nearly ready to return.
“I feel good today, walking a lot better. So, pretty much normal. I’m going to go out there and play catch. Just take it easy, baby steps. If it feels good playing catch, maybe I can progress to flat ground,” Britton said.
He’d like to pitch on the homestand that concludes Sunday.
“I think this week is a good timeline. It’s not going to be today, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be tomorrow or the next day,” Britton said.
Britton wasn’t available for comment after he injured the ankle on Saturday night, and looked a lot better than he did on Sunday when he used crutches and a soft boot.
“I feel a lot better. I think flexibility, range of motion is back. It’s just swollen. It’s got some bruising but as long as i can manage the pain. It think that’s going to be the biggest issue right now is does it hurt me doing baseball things? Covering first, fielding a bunt, or whatnot. Those are things that I’m going to have to test out. Whether it’s today, I’m not sure. I’m just going to go out there and play catch and see how it goes,” Britton said.
NOTES: Hunter Harvey, the Orioles No. 1 draft pick in 2013 who hasn’t pitched competitively since July 2014, underwent sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia. He’s expected to be out from four to six weeks.
Manager Buck Showalter isn’t concerned about Harvey’s long absence from pitching.
“I think if he pitches from June, July on and finishes up strong like we think he can, I think he’s OK. But you’d really like to see him get the ball every fifth day at some point there and kind of get some of that experience he needs to finish off some things,” Showalter said.
-Yovani Gallardo, who’s been on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder and rotator cuff tendinitis, is improving.
“He’s doing good. I’m very optimistic on the return we’re going to get on some of the things he’s doing. He’s moving towards throwing before too long,” Showalter said.
-LHP Jeff Beliveau, who labrum surgery a year ago, has been assigned to Frederick. Beliveau, who pitched for the Cubs and Rays, has intrigued Showalter, and could pitch for the Orioles later this season.
-INF/OF Jimmy Paredes is batting .318 in six rehab games for Bowie and Frederick. Paredes’ rehab stint for his left wrist injury ends on May 15.
MORE ORIOLES: HARDY WON'T PUT DATE ON EXPECTED RETURN
Making sweeping judgments just one month into the Major League Baseball season is always a risky proposition. After all, we're talking about a small sample size — not even one-fifth of the 162-game slate — so it's hard to tell exactly which early-surprise teams will be out of the running down the road.
But at 15-11, the Philadelphia Phillies so far are showing that they're not laying down just because they were widely expected to struggle in 2016.
Just ask the Nationals. The suddenly youthful Phillies' three-game sweep of the NL-East leaders last week felt like a head-scratcher for Nats fans, but it was a series that showed that Pete Mackanin's club might no longer stuck in the seemingly perpetual quagmire of a rebuild.
"Every time we play somebody, I get the same question, but it's a good question because of course we [believe in ourselves]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said via MLB.com. "We played the Mets, we played them well. We just got done sweeping the Nationals and that was one of those teams where we wanted to gauge how good we were."
Of course, the Phils had already been hard a work trying to retool the roster under the direction of new President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. Once known for a core featuring stars like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Philly's now getting major contributions from the likes of Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola — not exactly household names, but potential building blocks that are all under 25.
So, can this last? Are the Phillies ahead of schedule?
Well, though they're winning, the Phillies certainly aren't exactly dominating any one area of the game. Their better-than-expected pitching staff owns a so-so 3.93 ERA, which is helping to keep this team afloat. The staff will need to keep this up, because the offense is currently ranked 29th in the majors in on-base percentage (.289) and 28th in OPS (.651), which explains why this team can have a winning record despite a minus-23 run differential.
As the Phillies fight to show that they aren't a mirage, the one thing that does seem real for the team and its fans is that there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel. The rebuilding plan appears to be paying dividends early on, and perhaps sometime soon, this club could pose as a serious threat to the Nats and the rest of the NL East for the division crown.
"The players should feel proud of what they've done so far this season, no matter what happens down the road," Mackanin said. "The biggest thing for me was how we reacted after going 0-4 at the beginning of the season. What have we gone, 15-6 since then? It's a good feeling."
BALTIMORE – Ryan Flaherty was in the original starting lineup at shortstop and Manny Machado at third base for Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees.
About 40 minutes after the lineup came out, Machado was listed as the shortstop and Flaherty at third base.
Machado came to talk with manager Buck Showalter about the lineup change.
“I talked to Manny in detail about it, got his feelings about it. This is the way we’re going to go tonight,” Showalter said.
“Manny made the case he wants the Orioles to win. That’s all we talked about. What all this about [is] ‘if you want me to play third, I’ll play third. If you want me to play short, I’ll play short.’ He’s in.”
Last year, Machado started seven games at shortstop when J.J. Hardy was on the disabled list with a groin injury.
Flaherty and Paul Janish also played there. He played there twice when Hardy was out last month.
Those were the first games Machado, who played shortstop exclusively until coming to the Orioles in Aug. 2012, had played there since.
Flaherty subbed for Machado at third in late 2014, too.
Showalter said that Pedro Alvarez, who played there on Sunday after Hardy left the game, with an injury, is an option at third base.
“He’s played more third base than Manny has. There’s some options there. I’d like to keep them all open. I’d also like to keep from moving guys around a lot,” Showalter said.
Flaherty, who was surprisingly sent down to Norfolk eight days ago when the Orioles wanted 13 pitchers, is happy to be back.
“Every day up here is a good opportunity. Every time you have a chance to help the team in whatever way it is, then that’s a good opportunity,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty hit .421 in five games with the Tides.
Showalter is uncomfortable with a three-man bench, and the Orioles could add Janish after his wife delivers the couple’s third child this week.
“We’d all rather get back to 12 [pitchers] and four on the bench. It’s been tough,” Showalter said.