Former Fisher Cat Pillar suspended 2 games for using anti-gay slur

  • Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar (11) celebrates his game winning home run against the Seattle Mariners during ninth inning American League baseball action in Toronto, Sunday, May 14, 2017. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) Frank Gunn

  • Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (19) exchanges words with Atlanta Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki (24) after hitting a home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Atlanta. The incident led to both benches and bullpens emptying onto the field for the second time of the game. Atlanta won 8-4. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

  • Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman reacts after being hit by a pitch during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Atlanta. Freeman left the game. The Braves won 8-4. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

Associated Press
Thursday, May 18, 2017

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar apologized Thursday for directing an anti-gay slur at a Braves pitcher, which led to a two-game suspension, the league announced Thursday.

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 the speedy centerfielder using the slur as he yelled toward the mound. Pillar, a former member of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, issued a statement acknowledging his wrongdoing.

“I used inappropriate language toward Braves pitcher Jason Motte,” Pillar said. “By doing so I had just extended the use of a word that has no place in baseball, in sports or anywhere in society today. I’m completely and utterly embarrassed and feel horrible to have put the fans, my teammates and the Blue Jays organization in this position.”

While the MLB investigated the incident, Toronto General Manager Ross Atkins flew to Atlanta to access the situation, decided to suspend Pillar for two games, which Atkins said the league deemed approproiate.

The incident occurred during the Blue Jays’ third straight loss to the Braves. With his team trailing 8-3, Pillar struck out swinging to end a 1-2-3 seventh. He yelled toward the mound, prompting Motte to throw up his arms as if he didn’t know what the problem was.

Atlanta catcher Kurt Suzuki and home plate umpire Brian O’Nora stepped in to diffuse the tension. Pillar headed toward the outfield and the Braves left the field.

Afterward, Pillar conceded to reporters that he was frustrated by his team’s struggles, though he didn’t mention what was said.

“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.”

Pillar was much more contrite in his statement Thursday.

“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,” he said. “This is not who I am and will use this as an opportunity to better myself.”

The Blue Jays issued a statement saying it was “extremely disappointed” in Pillar’s comments.

“In no way is this kind of behavior accepted or tolerated, nor is it a reflection of the type of inclusive organization we strive to be,” the statement said. “We would like to extend our apologies to all fans, Major League Baseball and especially the LGBTQ community.”

The team went on to say: “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.”

Pillar played 71 games with the Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, in 2013. After playing 52 games in Triple-A, he was called up to Toronto later that year.

Wednesday’s game got more heated after the incident with Pillar and Motte. In the eighth inning, both teams charged onto the field after Toronto’s Jose Bautista homered off Eric O’Flaherty, stared down the Atlanta reliever and flipped his bat high in the air. Jace Peterson shouted something at Bautista as he rounded first base, and Suzuki exchanged words with the Blue Jays slugger after he touched home plate.

No punches were thrown, but O’Flaherty issued a harsh rebuke to Bautista after the game.

“That’s something making the game tough to watch,” the pitcher said, referring to previous home run celebrations by the Toronto slugger. “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.”

O’Flaherty then brought up a punch that Bautista took a little more than a year ago during a scuffle with Texas second baseman Rougned Odor.

“I’m surprised he’s ready to fight after last year,” O’Flaherty said with a laugh.