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.
Team Canada just wrapped up a World Cup Tournament that included three exhibition games, three round-robin games, a semi-final and a two-game final. In those eight games, Braden Holtby saw only 29:40 of ice time, about one half of an exhibition game against Team USA.
Back with the Caps, Holtby will now look to make up for lost time as he will start in Saturday's preseason game against the New York Islanders.
Saturday's morning skate was the first time Holtby was back on the ice for the Caps, but with the season opener now only 12 days away, Holtby wants to start getting back into game shape.
Holtby acknowledged after Saturday's skate that he was not in game shape and had expressed a desire to the coaches to play in Saturday's game to try to get as much game action as possible.
"There's still enough time," Holtby said. "I've still been on the ice and doing some drills so it's not starting at square one but the game action is key. You can practice all you want, but once you get into a game it's completely different just getting the stamina back up, the mental stamina.
"Still got enough games to make sure we're ready."
Joining Holtby in his preseason debut will be head coach Barry Trotz who will be behind the bench for the first time in the preseason after coaching for Team Canada.
"Talked to Todd [Reirden] yesterday and he wanted me to come on the bench and we'll get everybody in our proper roles and so I will go on the bench tonight," Trotz said. "I wasn't expecting to, but I will. I didn't want to come in and just, 'hey the sheriff's in town.' These guys have done an exceptional job and I just didn't want to do that, but they came to me and said I think we just want to go to our roles here and let's go move forward."
The game will not be in Brooklyn in the Islanders' usual home of the Barclays Center, but rather in Bridgeport, Conn., the home of New York's AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Here are the lines based on Saturday's morning skate:
Marcus Johansson - Lars Eller - Justin Williams
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Stanislav Galiev
Paul Carey - Chandler Stephenson - Brett Connolly
Liam O'Brien - Brad Malone - Riley Barber
The defensive pairs shuffled throughout the morning, but the six defensemen are Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Brooks Orpik, Aaron Ness, Tyler Lewington and Nate Schmidt.
Vitek Vanecek will backup Holtby.
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The World Cup of Hockey ended on Thursday, but Capitals goalie Braden Holtby is wasting no time in trying to get back into the rhythm with the Caps. Despite the tournament ending just two days ago in Toronto, Holtby practiced in the morning skate and will start for the Caps in Saturday's preseason game against the New York Islanders.
Holtby can now add World Cup champion to his growing resume as Canada was able to defeat Europe in two games, but he did not play as active a role with the team as had hoped. Despite being the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Holtby found himself relegated to third on the depth chart behind Carey Price and Corey Crawford.
But Holtby turned his time with Team Canada into a learning experience. He worked closely with Crawford and said he learned a lot from the two-time Stanley Cup winner.
"I really appreciate his game," Holtby said Saturday after morning skate. "You don't get to see him very much obviously being out west. He does some things outstandingly well that I can learn from him and try to get better at. Great guy, works really hard and earns what he gets and that was probably the best part of the experience."
Though Holtby said he had expected to take the role of No. 3 and was prepared for to be last on the depth chart heading into the tournament, he also acknowledged it was difficult getting into game shape and then slowing things down when practice began.
"It was tough," Holtby said. "It's almost like starting all over again after the first week of camp there because there wasn't much action as a goalie."
Participating in the World Cup also meant missing part of Caps' training camp. The further Canada went, the more time he would miss. For most players, missing training camp was not an issue as they were playing games in a competitive tournament.
"They were playing so that changes a little bit," Holtby said of the other participants. "Defintely not game shape yet for me."
Not only did Holtby not play a single game at the World Cup, being third on the depth chart also meant less practice time. Still, he said he does not feel behind in his preparations for the season.
"I really haven't missed that much of camp," Holtby said. "We've played two games, it's not a lot. ... You can be in the best shape of your life, but it doesn't make a difference when it comes to the body movements that come with goaltending."
While not concerned, Holtby still realizes the importance of getting game reps which is why he is wasting no time getting into the lineup and he said he wanted to play in Saturday's game.
Said Holtby, "I wanted to get back as soon as I could, get on the ice and make sure I could use all the time I can."
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