“I just feel bad,” Gurriel said through an interpreter late Friday night. “If anybody got offended over there, it was not my intention.”
A longtime fixture in Cuban baseball, Gurriel played in Japan in 2014, with the permission of the Cuban government. Two years later, he defected and signed a multiyear contract with the Astros, and he is now part of a standout infield. He batted .299 with 18 home runs in 139 games this season.
Gurriel explained his gesture by saying that he was joking with his teammates about never having success against Japanese pitchers in the major leagues, and wondering if in this instance Darvish had pitched to him differently — as if he, too, were from Japan.
During the five-minute interview, Gurriel seemed surprised at the attention he was receiving.
He never specifically referred to the hand gesture he made near his eyes, and the interview was halted by an Astros official before reporters could clarify if Gurriel understood how offensive the gesture was considered.
“He already explained it,” the interpreter, Alex Cintron, said. “He said he felt like he was talking about he never had success against a Japanese pitcher, and he was talking about Darvish maybe thinking he was Japanese and threw him a fastball and he hit it out.”
Gurriel said he was aware that the word Chinito was offensive. “In Cuba we call everybody who is from Asia ‘Chino,’” he said through the interpreter. “We don’t call them Japanese. We call them Chino. Plus, I know in Japan that offends them. They don’t like that, but I didn’t mean to do it.”
Darvish, 31, initially said he was angry when he learned what Gurriel had done, but later issued a statement on his verified Twitter account asking people to forgive Gurriel.
“What he had done today isn’t right,” the statement said. “But I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind.”
Gurriel said he would like to talk to Darvish about the incident. “I want to apologize to him,” Gurriel said, “and tell him I did not mean to offend him.”