Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros was suspended Saturday for the first five games of next season for making a racist gesture at Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish during the World Series.
Gurriel, a 33-year-old from Cuba, made the gesture shortly after homering to start Houston's four-run second inning. While sitting in the dugout, Gurriel put his fingers to the side of his eyes and said "chinito" — a derogatory Spanish term that translates literally to "little Chinese."
Darvish was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Iranian father.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the penalty Saturday, a day after Gurriel's actions during Game 3.
Manfred acknowledged some people believed Gurriel should have served an immediate ban.
"I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer," he said. "I 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."
The 33-year-old Gurriel, completing his second season in the major leagues after leaving Cuba, will lose $322,581 of his $12 million salary next year, which the Astros will donate to charitable causes. The first baseman will be required to undergo sensitivity training during the offseason.
"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."
Earlier, Gurriel said in Spanish through a translator, "I didn't try to offend nobody. I was commenting to my family that I didn't have any luck against Japanese pitchers here in the United States."
"In the moment, I didn't want to offend him or nobody in Japan because I have a lot of respect for them and I played in Japan," he added, "I didn't mean to do it."
Darvish played professionally in Japan from 2005-11 before joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was traded to the Dodgers at this year's July 31 trade deadline. He was angry about Gurriel's behavior.
"Acting like that, you just disrespect all the people around the world," he said in Japanese through a translator.
Gurriel spent 15 years in the Cuban professional league and played in Japan for a year before signing with the Astros last season. Gurriel homered and doubled in Game 3 and is batting .346 in the postseason.
"I know he's remorseful," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said.
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.
Manfred decided against imposing a suspension during the World Series, which the Astros led 2-1. Game 4 was Saturday night.
"I understand that people may have different views. But it was my best judgment that this timing was appropriate," Manfred said.
Some of Darvish's former teammates with the Rangers called out Gurriel for his actions on Twitter. Pitcher Jake Diekman used an emoji to call the gesture trash, and outfielder Ryan Rua said "really hope that gesture from Gurriel wasnt directed towards Yu...no place for that."
Darvish hopes the incident can be a learning experience.
"Nobody's perfect and everybody is different and then ... we just ... have to learn from it," he said. "And then he made a mistake and then we're just going to learn from it. We are all human beings. That's what I'm saying, so just learn from it and we've got to go forward, move forward."
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."
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.