Baseball / MLB

Astros' Yuli Gurriel denies racist taunt directed at Yu Darvish

Reuters, AP

Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel apologized for making what appeared to be a racist gesture about Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish during Game 3 of the World Series on Friday.

After putting the Astros ahead 1-0 with a solo homer off the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher in the second inning, the 33-year-old Cuban was in the dugout laughing with teammates when he was caught on camera using his hands to make a slanted-eye gesture and saying “chinito” — a derogatory Spanish term that translates literally to “little Chinese.”

Gurriel, who played with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars before joining Houston in July 2016, said he never meant to offend Darvish.

“I didn’t want to offend him or nobody in Japan because I have a lot of respect, I played in Japan,” said Gurriel. “Japan opened my doors to the game of baseball and I didn’t mean to offend them.”

Gurriel’s actions drew immediate scrutiny across social media.

After the game, which the Astros won 5-3 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Darvish called the gesture “disrespectful.”

“I try not to care much about it, but he played in Japan and I have a lot of respect for him, so I try not to think about it too much against him,” Darvish said. “He made a mistake and we’ve just got to learn from it. We are all human beings, that’s what I’m saying.”

Darvish was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Iranian father. A person with knowledge of the situation said the league intends to speak with Gurriel, who might be punished with a suspension during the World Series.