Phillies

Gurriel banned 5 games in 2018 for racist gesture at Darvish

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Gurriel banned 5 games in 2018 for racist gesture at Darvish

HOUSTON — Yuli Gurriel will have to sit out for making a racist gesture toward Yu Darvish -- but not during the World Series.

Major League Baseball suspended the Houston Astros first baseman on Saturday for the first five games next season. The punishment came a day after Gurriel's actions toward the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher during Game 3.

"I understand that people may have different views," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "But it was my best judgment that this timing was appropriate."

"I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer," he said.

The Cuban-born Gurriel pulled on the corners of his eyes after homering off Darvish during Houston's 5-3 win Friday night. He also used a derogatory Spanish term in reference to Darvish, who was born in Japan.

"I made an offensive gesture that was indefensible," Gurriel said in a statement released by the Astros. "I sincerely apologize to everyone that I offended with my actions. I deeply regret it."

"I would particularly like to apologize to Yu Darvish, a pitcher that I admire and respect. I would also like to apologize to the Dodgers organization, the Astros, Major League Baseball and to all fans across the game," he said.

Gurriel said Friday that he wanted to meet with Darvish to express his regret. Manfred said there would be a private apology.

Gurriel will lose $322,581 of his $12 million salary next year, which the Astros will donate to charitable causes. He also will be required to undergo sensitivity training during the offseason.

Immediately after the game, Darvish said he was angry.

"Acting like that, you just disrespect all the people around the world," he said in Japanese through a translator.

Darvish later tweeted "let's stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger."

Gurriel drew cheers when he batted in the second inning of Game 4 on Saturday night. He grounded into a double play.

The 33-year-old Gurriel played in Japan in 2014 and is completing his second season in the major leagues after leaving Cuba.

Darvish was born to a Japanese mother and an Iranian father. The four-time All-Star played professionally in Japan from 2005-11 before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was sent to the Dodgers at this year's July 31 trade deadline.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said the team was "surprised and disappointed" by Gurriel's behavior and supported Manfred's decision.

"Yuli has always demonstrated respectful behavior and is extremely remorseful for his actions," Luhnow said. "Appropriately, Yuli has apologized for his gesture. He had no intention of offending anyone, but now recognizes the perceived offensiveness of his actions."

MLB suspended two players this season for using slurs. Toronto's Kevin Pillar and Oakland's Matt Joyce each were banned two games this season after making anti-gay comments. In 2012, Toronto infielder Yunel Escobar was penalized three games for a gay slur.

"That precedent is not adequate to deal with the current situation," Manfred said. "I've decided to go beyond that precedent as a statement of our disapproval of this behavior."

Manfred said he was "impressed in my conversation with Yu Darvish by his desire to move forward, and I felt that moving the suspension to the beginning of the season would help in that regard."

Said Manfred: "There is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like the behavior we witnessed last night."

"There is no excuse or explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable," he said.

By imposing a penalty Gurriel and the players' union agreed not to contest, Manfred avoided a possible grievance hearing in the next few days before arbitrator Mark Irvings that would have taken attention away from the World Series.

Gurriel will be put on the restricted list next season, meaning the Astros can replace him and play with a 25-man roster.

Manfred would not compare Gurriel's actions with the Cleveland Indians' decision to keep using their Chief Wahoo logo, which has been criticized by Native Americans and others.

"I see a difference between behavior from one player directed specifically at a player and a logo," he said. "While both are problematic, I don't see them as the same issue. We continue to have conversations with the Indians about the logo, and it's an issue I intend to deal with in the offseason."

Former Phillie Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez dies

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Former Phillie Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez dies

Former Phillies reliever Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez died Thursday in his native Cuba, the Phillies announced Friday.

Gonzalez, 31, was killed in a car accident, according to the El Nuevo Herald.

Gonzalez defected from Cuba in 2013 and was a highly sought-after free agent, eventually signing a three-year deal with the Phillies.

“It has been tough being away from my family,” Gonzalez said through a translator after the team signed him. “It has definitely been tough. I have no regrets, the distance between me and my family — my mother, aunts, cousins — is the only thing.”

The Cuban never reached the lofty expectations both the team and fans had envisioned for him. The righty was troubled with arm injuries throughout his Phillies' career, causing his velocity to dip. 

He made six big-league appearances in his career — all in 2014 — with a 6.75 ERA and pitched in the minors until his release from the Phillies in April 2016. 

Gonzalez experienced his most successful years pitching in his homeland — which included two World Cup appearances in 2009 and 2011 — but was suspended from the national team for his multiple failed attempts to defect.

Gonzalez is just the latest Phillie to have died recently. Legendary pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash Nov. 7 and the revered Dallas Green lost his battle with kidney disease in March. 

Phillies well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

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Phillies well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

Teams all over baseball, including the Phillies, are ready to pounce on a bevy of young international talent that became available Tuesday.

Major League Baseball punished the Atlanta Braves for a host of international signing violations by stripping the club of 13 minor-league prospects (see story). MLB also banished former Braves general manager John Coppolella from working in the game for life.

In the summer of 2016, MLB found the Boston Red Sox in violation of international signing rules and stripped that club of five international prospects. Included in that group was Simon Muzziotti, an outfielder from Venezuela. The Red Sox had initially signed Muzziotti for $300,000 in 2015. He was declared a free agent a year later and the Phillies swooped in and signed him for $750,000. Now 18, Muzziotti played for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team in 2017.

The list of players set free on Tuesday includes 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who received a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2016. Six other players that received signing bonuses of $1 million or more were also set free. The group includes Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, who received a $3.53 million bonus and Dominican infielder Yunior Severino, who received a $1.9 million bonus.

The Phillies are well positioned to make a run at some of these new international free agents and past practice says they will. The club added to its current international signing pool in a couple of trades last summer and has about $900,000 remaining. More money can be acquired in trades and applied to the current pool. A team can also use money from next year's pool — that market opens in July — to sign a player, though those funds cannot be used to augment the current pool.

Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani is the prize of this winter's international market. While the deep-pocketed Phillies have interest in Otani, he is subject to international signing bonus rules and pool limits. Translation: Signing him is not simply a matter of being the highest bidder. The team that gets Otani will likely be a contender in win-now mode with a history of signing Japanese talent. An American League club that could offer Otani at-bats (he wants to hit, as well as pitch) would be the best fit.

So, the Phillies' international splash this winter could come from the fallout of the Braves' signing controversy.

The former Braves' prospects are eligible to begin signing with new clubs on Dec. 5. They are:

Kevin Maitan, SS
Juan Contreras, RHP
Yefri del Rosario, RHP
Abrahan Gutierrez, C
Juan Carlos Negret, OF
Yenci Pena, SS
Yunior Severino, 2B
Livan Soto, SS
Guillermo Zuniga, RHP
Brandol Mezquita, OF
Angel Rojas, SS
Antonio Sucre, OF
Ji-Hwan Bae, SS