The Toronto Blue Jays are handing centre-fielder Kevin Pillar a two-game suspension for directing an anti-gay slur at an Atlanta Braves pitcher.
General manager Ross Atkins confirmed the ban during a media availability before Thursday night’s game at SunTrust Park.
Pillar was angry at Jason Motte for allegedly quick-pitching him to get a strikeout that ended the seventh inning in Atlanta’s 8-4 victory Wednesday night.
Replays appeared to show Pillar using the slur as he yelled toward the mound.
“By doing so I had just helped extend the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today,” Pillar said on his Twitter account.
“I’m completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the fans, my teammates and the Blue Jays organization in this position. I have apologized personally to Jason Motte, but also need to apologize to the Braves organization and their fans, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community for the lack of respect I displayed last night.
“This is not who I am and will use this as an opportunity to better myself.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Major League Baseball was also considering disciplining Pillar.
“The Toronto Blue Jays are extremely disappointed by the comments made by Kevin Pillar following his at-bat during the seventh inning of last night’s game,” the team said in a statement.
“In no way is this kind of behaviour accepted or tolerated, nor is it a reflection of the type of inclusive organization we strive to be. We would like to extend our own apologies to all fans, Major League Baseball and especially the LGBTQ community. We know Kevin to be a respectful, high-character individual who we hope will learn from this situation and continue to positively contribute and live up to our values on and off the field.”
Many on Twitter came down on Pillar over the incident.
“Heat of the moment or not, simply having that word in your vocabulary makes you a bad person. Inexcusable, Pillar,” @ReesorBoy wrote.
Pillar was apparently upset that Motte threw a quick-pitch for the third strike. The benches emptied after the incident but no punches were thrown.
After the game, Pillar told reporters he got caught up in the heat of the moment.
“It just stems from a little frustration in myself, just the way this series has been going,” he said. “It was immature, stupid. It was uncalled for. It’s part of the game. I’m a competitive guy.”
The Braves won the first three games of the series, outscoring the Blue Jays 27-15.
“(Motte) didn’t do anything wrong, it was on me,” Pillar said. “It’s something to learn from, something to move on from. Don’t let it define me.”
Pillar, 28, has been enjoying a strong season at the plate and in the field. Entering Thursday’s games, he was tied for fourth in the major leagues with 51 hits.
He has six homers, 12 RBIs, an .854 OPS (on-base plus slugging) and has made several highlight-reel catches in centre field.
In 2012, former Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games by the team after he played a game with a homophobic slur written in Spanish on his eye-black stickers. Pillar made his big-league debut with the Blue Jays the following year and he became an everyday player in 2015.
The tension didn’t end after Pillar’s outburst on Wednesday night.
In the eighth inning, Jose Bautista stared at the mound and flipped his bat after homering to left field. Jace Peterson said something to Bautista as he rounded first base and the Toronto slugger had words with catcher Kurt Suzuki as he touched home plate.
The benches emptied again but no punches were thrown.
Bautista has a history of flipping his bat after hitting home runs, an action that often makes opponents bristle. His most infamous bat flip came after he hit a go-ahead homer in the deciding game of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers.
Braves pitcher Eric O’Flaherty didn’t mince words about Bautista’s latest actions.
“That’s something (that’s) making the game tough to watch,” he said. “It’s turned into look-at-me stuff. He hit a home run with (the Braves holding) a five-run lead and throws the bat around. I’m just tired of it. I’ve seen it from him enough.”
The rivalry between the Blue Jays and Rangers was heightened last year after Texas infielder Rougned Odor rocked Bautista with a punch during a scuffle. The teams went on to meet in the ALDS once again, with Toronto winning three straight games to advance.
The Braves and Blue Jays, meanwhile, have little history since their play has been primarily limited to occasional interleague play.
The teams did meet in the 1992 World Series, with Toronto winning four games to two.