Hector Neris apology does little to warm over Julio Rodriguez

Hector Neris apologized to Julio Rodriguez in a statement Thursday, a day after the Houston Astros reliever shouted at the Mariners star during an at-bat that caused both benches to empty in Seattle.

In a battle of two teams fighting for the final American League wild-card spot, Neris yelled at Rodriguez after striking him out during the sixth inning of what was ultimately an 8-3 Houston win. Rodriguez was visibly angered by the pitcher's actions, as were other members of the Mariners.

"First, I want to apologize to Julio, his family, and the Mariners organization," Neris said in the statement. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for Julio as a person and a player. He means so much to baseball and the communities in the United States and back home in the Dominican Republic. He is a great player and a better person and deserves to be recognized that way.

"Secondly, Julio has been a friend dating back to 2020, when we spent the pandemic working out together. We have had a friendly competition when one beats the other on the field, something that is customary in the Dominican Republic and especially among friends. My intent in going towards Julio was to get his attention as part of the friendly ongoing banter that we have had over the years.

"I recognize that last night I should not have gone towards him like I did. I did not mean to disrespect him, his family or the Mariners. I do understand how my actions could be interpreted that way."

In addition, Neris called reports that he used an anti-gay slur toward Rodriguez "simply incorrect."

Asked directly if Neris used a slur, Rodriguez declined to answer. But he did say Neris' antics crossed a line.

"I feel like you've got to keep it respectful and he was someone I had a lot of respect for and known for quite a long time dating back to 2020 during the pandemic and all that," Rodriguez said ahead of Thursday's game against the Rangers. "I just feel like I deserve a little more respect on that."

The Athletic reported Thursday night that Major League Baseball is investigating the incident and what was said.

Rodriguez said Neris attempted to reach out to apologize, but he wasn't interested in engaging at this time. Rodriguez also said a home run he hit off Neris last season wasn't a factor in what happened.

Rodriguez and Neris were teammates on the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic team and are represented by the same agency. Asked if he'll talk to Neris again, Rodriguez said he wasn't looking forward to it.

"I'm chilling. I'm going to focus on what I need to do here with this team, with this family that we've got here," Rodriguez said.

Wednesday marked the third bench-clearing incident between the teams this season.

Seattle's Jose Caballero and Astros catcher Martin Maldonado squared off at the plate May 7. The two appeared to be at odds after Caballero called time on the previous pitch. After a swing-and-miss, Caballero faced off with Maldonado and the two exchanged words as their teammates streamed onto the field.

Another incident occurred Aug. 19 when Houston's Framber Valdez threw a pitch at the feet of Caballero, which hit him in the lower part of his left leg. Caballero hit the ground as he tried to get out of the way. Caballero got up, put his arms out and started walking and talking toward Valdez, who responded. This caused the benches to empty.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.