Pirates reliever Jared Hughes has been losing sleep, and wondering and worrying after being accused by Reds star Brandon Phillips of directing a racial comment toward him on the field. Hughes had hoped the matter had been closed with a private phone conversation but felt the need to defend himself after Phillips subsequently went on TV and repeated his accusation.
“I didn't say those things,'' Hughes told CBSSports.com by phone. “That's not who I am. That's not how I was raised. I didn't say anything like that.''
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Luckily for Hughes, the Pirates TV broadcast from the confrontation in Monday night's game appears to back Hughes. While it's clear Hughes swore at Phillips as Phillips flipped the ball in his direction after being hit by a Hughes pitch, the tape does not suggest Hughes used the word “boy,'' as Phillips claims.
Hughes actually thought the matter had been settled quietly when he and Phillips spoke on Andrew McCutchen's cell phone the day after the incident, and Hughes had the impression the matter would be kept between them after what he characterized as a reasonable discussion. “I came out of that conversation thinking we both wanted not to harp on things,'' Hughes said.
But Phillips went on NBC Tuesday and in response to a broadcaster's question re-asserted that Hughes made a racial remark in their on-field confrontation. That only opened the wound for Hughes.
“It was shocking,'' Hughes said regarding Phillips re-opening the story.
“It definitely has been tough,'' Hughes said. “I've got friends and family calling to offer me support.''
Phillips is well-known as a fiery player, but he didn't run at Hughes after their verbal confrontation and merely walked toward first base. However, Phillips could be seen complaining to an umpire, and then later trying to get his friend McCutchen's attention on the field.
Phillips didn't stop there. He referred to the alleged incident in a tweet. Phillips (@DatDudeBP) tweeted that night, “Not really surprised by what I heard came outta another player's mouth tonite but DAMN. Still PISSED bout that $hj+!! #Racism."
Hughes saw the tweet, leading to the phone conversation, and he told Phillips in the talk arranged by McCutchen that while he would not apologize for saying "boy" -- Hughes contends he did no such thing -- he was sorry if Phillips misheard or misinterpreted what was said. Phillips apparently misunderstood the apology, at least according to Hughes. A Reds spokesman said there would be “no more comments from Reds camp'' on the matter.
Now Hughes feels the need to clear the air further. “There is no way I would say anything like that,'' he said, adding, “I have too much respect for Brandon as a man.''
The tape suggests Hughes said, “Hey man, throw the (bleeping) ball back to the dugout, (blankety-blank). Hughes, who is known to teammates as a fun-loving, down-to-earth guy who does some fire-breathing on the mound (he's one of the relievers who runs in from the bullpen), admitted to swearing at Phillips. But Hughes said the setting was “very loud'' and isn't even sure what Phillips said to him after Phillips was hit by his pitch.
Hughes is still concerned about what anyone might think of him after Phillips' accusation. But as for what Hughes thinks about Phillips, apparently all is forgiven.
“Honestly, I still have a ton of respect for Brandon Phillips,'' Hughes said. “I think he's a good man, and a good ballplayer.''