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Matt Joyce receives a two-game suspension for using anti-gay slur

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Athletics’ right fielder Matt Joyce has been suspended for two games without pay, Major League Baseball announced Saturday. The suspension follows an unsavory incident during the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the Angels, when Associated Press photographer Mark J. Terrill overheard Joyce making anti-gay remarks to a fan who was heckling him in the stands. During Joyce’s suspension, the Athletics will donate over $54,000 of his salary to PFLAG, a national organization devoted to family and ally organization in unison with the LGBTQ+ community. He is also expected to participate in a public outreach initiative with the organization.

The outfielder took to Twitter to issue a lengthy apology on Saturday, and further explained the nature of the heckling and his response to it:

In regard to last night’s incident, I first and foremost want to sincerely apologize to the fans, the Oakland A’s, MLB and the [sic] most importantly the LGBTQ community for my comments and actions. A fan yelled vulgar and obscene words about me and my family and I let my frustrations and emotions get the better of me. I am beyond sorry for the inappropriate language that I used and I understand and agree that those words should NEVER come out of someone’s mouth no matter the situation. Anyone who knows me will tell you that incident it is not reflective of me as a person, how I treat others, how I live my life and that those hurtful words are not my views. I fully support and hope to help the LGBTQ community with their efforts in being treated fairly and intend to let my actions speak louder than anything more that can be said about this truly regrettable moment.

Over the last several years, the Athletics have exhibited a no-tolerance policy towards players who express anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, suspending minor league left-hander Ian Krol and releasing another minor league player over similar incidents in 2011 and 2017, respectively. They also issued a formal statement on Saturday, acknowledging Joyce’s apology and making it clear that the language he chose was not in line with their views:

The Oakland Athletics are very disappointed by the comments Matt Joyce made to a fan during the eighth inning of last night’s game. This language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by our team. We pride ourselves on being inclusive and expect our entire organization to live up to higher standards. We appreciate that Matt is contrite about his conduct and know he will learn from this incident.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that outfielders are often frequent targets of heckling, and Joyce’s recent poor performance for the Angels likely factored into the situation as well. While players aren’t required to turn the other cheek when fans take things too far, wielding an anti-gay slur in self-defense is not only unacceptable, but reprehensible.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.