ST. PETERSBURG -- Yunel Escobar made his return to the Blue Jays'
starting lineup on Saturday night following a four-game absence.
Escobar received a three-game suspension earlier this week for writing
a homophobic slur on his eye-black patches during a game on Sept. 15.
The Cuban native was then also held out of the lineup on Friday night
to provide a longer mental break, but he did pinch-hit during a
lopsided 12-1 loss to the Rays.
"It's time to get back in there," manager John Farrell said. "Whether
he is completely over what has taken place, I would venture to say
that he's not, but these are the things that he has to deal with."
Escobar's suspension is over, but the storyline is unlikely to go away
anytime soon and it remains to be seen what the fan reaction will be
when the Blue Jays return home on Sept. 28.
The 29-year-old Escobar is set to undergo sensitivity training as part
of his suspension, and he's also expected to take part in a number of
community events and meetings to help bring awareness to the issue.
Escobar already has apologized on multiple occasions and has
maintained all along that he didn't intend to offend anybody with the spanish slur. He's hoping that fans will eventually forgive his
actions and that he'll be able to put the incident in the past.
"I'm having a hard time dealing with the situation," Escobar said
through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I'm really sorry for what happened
on the field ... If I hurt somebody, from the bottom of my heart, I
feel really sorry about it. I'm looking forward to meeting the people
in Toronto and go from there."