PHOENIX — Speaking for the first time since Major League Baseball opened an investigation into his actions during Wednesday’s benches-clearing incident, Astros reliever Hector Neris again denied shouting a homophobic slur at Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez and said he does not believe his actions warrant any league discipline.
Neris charged and shouted toward Rodríguez after striking him out during Wednesday’s 8-3 win against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez alleged that Neris used an anti-gay slur in Spanish. On Thursday, Rodríguez declined to elaborate on what he heard Neris say.
“I’ve never said those words,” Neris said on Friday through an interpreter. “I was just as surprised as you guys hearing that report when it came out. Maybe it’s one of those things that was taken out of context. Maybe I should have smiled at the end of it. It looked wrong, obviously, me charging at him. I didn’t say anything else other than what I just said, other than saying cono.”
Asked what cono means, Astros Spanish language interpreter Jenloy Herrera responded “like f—. F—ing hit.”
“The only thing I really told him was ‘Hit, hit’ and then I said cono to him,” Neris said, according to Herrera.
Neris said he has spoken to “a lot of people” since Wednesday’s incident, but did not indicate whether MLB officials have reached out to him directly. The league began looking into the incident on Thursday, a source said. Astros manager Dusty Baker said the team has not yet heard whether Neris could be facing any disciplinary action.
“I don’t think I did anything that would be a violation of any of the rules or requiring disciplinary action from MLB,” Neris said. “It wasn’t anything personal and I don’t think anything that broke rules.”
On Thursday afternoon, Neris issued a statement apologizing to Rodríguez, Rodríguez’s family and the Mariners organization for his actions, but called any accusations that he used a homophobic slur “simply incorrect.”
“A lot of people are doing investigations to find out what actually was said,” Neris said on Friday. “For me,
Neris reiterated on Friday that he believed his actions were taken out of context and he regretted walking toward Rodríguez after the strikeout.
“I think it looks a little bit bad in the video, the intention,” Neris said. “Guys were yelling back at each other, heckling each other, joking around. I thought that was one of those moments but obviously it looks differently because I walked toward him. Maybe that was what the misunderstanding was.”
Neris has reached out to Rodríguez in hopes of apologizing, but Rodríguez said on Thursday he has no intentions of responding. The two men were friends prior to Wednesday’s incident, a relationship Rodríguez strongly insinuated is now fractured.
“It’s just not what you want to see,” Rodríguez said on Thursday. “Especially from someone you think is your friend, or thought was your friend.”
Neris did not answer whether he has attempted to contact Rodríguez again.
“He has his reasons because of the misunderstanding, but those are things that I let go,” Neris said. “Maybe it’s something we’ll talk about later once everything is going well.”
(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)