Pirates Hughes denies using racial slur

Pirates rookie reliever Jared Hughes gained the nickname of "The Mayor" during his climb through the farm system because of his ability to make friends with seemingly everybody with his friendly and outgoing nature.

Now Hughes' integrity is being brought in question, including the idea that he is racist, because of an incident that occurred in Pirates' 4-3 loss to the Reds on Monday night in 14 innings at Cincinnati. Phillips, who is black, claimed Hughes, who is white, made a racial remark after hitting him with a pitch in the eighth inning.

The two had apparently settled their differences in a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon. However, Phillips then went on TV later Tuesday and said Hughes "said what he said" and that is was the first time he had ever heard a player make a racial remark.

When pressed to confirm Hughes made a racial remark, Phillips said, "He did. That's what we talked about. If you want to know what he said, you should ask him."

Hughes is so upset by the matter that he has declined to speak directly with the media for fear of becoming too emotional.

However, Hughes did issue a statement through the Pirates' media relations department that read: "In response to Brandon Phillips' TV interview yesterday, prior to the game, I feel compelled to once again make it perfectly clear that I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night, period. While I cannot repeat everything that I said because I did swear, it is obvious when reviewing the tape that I in no way, shape or form made any remark that was in any way connected to race. It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person."

A source who was on the field during the time of the incident told The Sports Xchange Tuesday that Hughes used two expletives when he yelled at Phillips but neither was of a racial nature. Hughes was upset that Phillips flipped the ball back to the mound after being hit rather than throwing it toward the dugout, which is the normal protocol.

Notes, Quotes

3B Pedro Alvarez was a late scratch from Wednesday night's lineup because of soreness in his right wrist. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle declined to say how Alvarez was injured or when he might be able to return. The Pirates are off Thursday before opening a four-game series Friday against the Cubs at Chicago. INF Josh Harrison took Alvarez's place and went 0-for-3 as the Pirates lost 2-1 at Cincinnati.

RHP Jeff Karstens will be available to pitch out of the bullpen beginning Friday. Manager Clint Hurdle would not commit to when or if Karstens might return to the rotation this season. Karstens has missed his last two turns in the rotation since leaving his Aug. 31 start at Milwaukee in the first inning because of a strained right hip.

2B Neil Walker will not return to the lineup on Friday, as originally hoped. Walker missed his 15th straight game with tightness in his lower back Wednesday night. The Pirates were encouraged that Walker was close to being ready to play in a game after he hit against RHP Jeff Karstens in a simulated game on Tuesday. However, Walker felt discomfort on Wednesday and did not take batting practice. The Pirates are off Thursday and Walker will be re-evaluated Friday.

LF Starling Marte, who has struggled since coming off the disabled list Friday, was benched for a second straight game. Marte is 1-for-12 with six strikeouts after missing 15 games with a strained right oblique muscle.

RHP Kyle McPherson is a possibility to move into the starting rotation in the season's final weeks, especially if the Pirates fall out of contention. McPherson has a 1.69 ERA in six relief appearances for the Pirates, allowing two earned runs in 10 2/3 innings. The Pirates are just 2 1/3 games behind St. Louis for the second National League wild card and have actually gained one-half game on the Cardinals despite losing 14 of their last 18 games.

By The Numbers: 0-3—RHP A.J. Burnett's record in his last five starts, though the 15-game winner took a tough-luck loss Tuesday as he gave up just two runs and five hits in six innings.

Quote To Note: "It was a well-pitched game on Homer's side. You've got to tip your hat," —RHP A.J. Burnett on losing to Cincinnati RHP Homer Bailey, who allowed one run and six hits in seven innings for the win Tuesday.

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