Skaggs OD'd...

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T15D23
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Skaggs OD'd...

Postby T15D23 » Sat Aug 31, 2019 8:49 pm

Medical examiner’s report reveals Tyler Skaggs died of opioid overdose, raising new questions
Fabian Ardaya

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — In a crowded room, with black curtains removing just about any semblance of color, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said what has gone unspoken for months.

“Everyone is searching for facts,” Eppler said.

The Angels finally have some. The Tarrant County medical examiner’s toxicology report released Friday showed pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1, had a mix of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system at the time of his death. Skaggs’ death, the report said, was ruled an accident; it states that the 27-year-old essentially died choking on his own vomit while under the influence. He was found at 2:18 p.m. when police reported to the team hotel after teammates became worried about Skaggs’ absence. He was fully clothed, wearing brown boots and black denim jeans for the Western-themed road trip he’d helped organize, with no signs of trauma, according to the report.

The Southlake Police Department said in a statement on Friday it is continuing to investigate the incident. The Angels, Eppler said, will fully cooperate. Major League Baseball will assign its investigative unit to probe a claim made by the Skaggs family that an Angels employee may have been involved, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.

“We are grateful for the work of the detectives in the Southlake Police Department and their ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death,” the Skaggs family said in a statement. “We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels. We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them. To that end, we have hired attorney Rusty Hardin to assist us.”

Hardin, based in Houston, has represented several high-profile sports clients, including Roger Clemens, Warren Moon, Adrian Peterson and Wade Boggs.

Eppler and manager Brad Ausmus declined to comment when asked about the family’s claim an employee was involved, citing the ongoing investigation.

“I apologize but I can not comment on that because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, because it would compromise the investigation and the jobs that people have to do,” Eppler said.

With those answers come even more questions. For two months, the Angels have been left wondering how Skaggs died. Friday’s toxicology results still haven’t told the whole story.

“I can just say that we were saddened by that report when it came out and completely heartbroken,” Eppler said.

“We miss Tyler every day. That clubhouse misses him every day. We miss him in our lives and we pray for him and his family every day. We pray for our own healing every day as well. Nothing we learned today changes those feelings. Not one bit. But this is like a shot to our core. And it brings back a lot of pain for that tragic day.”

Eppler and Ausmus each said they planned to address the club on Friday afternoon. Eppler declined to comment as to whether he knew the details of the report’s findings prior to Friday’s release, but Ausmus said he was surprised by the news.

“Frankly, for me and the guys in the clubhouse, it doesn’t really change anything,” Ausmus said. “We lost a teammate, lost a friend. We miss him.

“There are really not many days that go by that myself or any of the staff and players don’t think of Tyler or something reminds us. Something happens on the field or in the clubhouse that reminds us of him.”

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what happened,” Cam Bedrosian said after Friday night’s 7-6 loss to Boston. “I love him like a brother. I still do. That’s it.”

Fentanyl, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is a synthetic opioid pain reliever approved for treating severe pain and is considered 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The blood testing revealed 3.8 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter within Skaggs’ system, along with 38 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone — which is on MLB’s banned substance list. Fentanyl, while not specifically banned, qualifies as a “drug of abuse.” Skaggs’ blood alcohol content of 0.122 percent exceeds the legal limit for impairment of 0.08 percent.

Skaggs had a long injury history. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, missing the better part of the next 20 months. Skaggs wouldn’t cross the 100-inning threshold again until a year ago due to a variety of ailments, and he pitched through a groin injury for much of the second half of last season.

This season, however, Skaggs appeared fairly healthy. He was prevented from throwing for a week in spring training with forearm tightness as he learned a new pitch, then briefly went on the 10-day injured list with a sprained ankle. Before his death, Skaggs posted a 4.29 ERA over 79 2/3 innings, on pace to set career bests in innings pitched and starts.

Ausmus said Skaggs never approached him about pitching through pain this season, Ausmus’ first with the Angels, though he also said he would be the last person Skaggs would’ve gone to in such a situation as the pitcher likely would have wanted to stay on the field. In his experience as a former catcher and watching pitchers deal with injuries, Ausmus said, the standard medication for in-season pain was Advil.

“Quite frankly, I had to Google what fentanyl was,” Ausmus said. “I didn’t know much about it. You read about opioids being an issue culturally, and post-surgically for athletes, but I can’t say as I’ve seen it or noticed it being a problem — not that I’m qualified to recognize the signs. I haven’t really seen it.”

Eppler declined to say whether the Angels will alter how they discuss drugs and painkillers in the clubhouse, citing the player-education programs in place through the club and Major League Baseball. Eppler has spoken to players within the organization “just in general about life responsibilities and things of that nature.”

“But education is an important part of what we do in a lot of things,” he said, “and we educate our players on a number of things, as well as Major League Baseball educating them.”

The Angels have left Skaggs’ locker untouched since July, with a piece of Dubble Bubble bubblegum in front of his glove and his New Balance cleats ready. Players have worn Skaggs’ name and number on a patch over their hearts in the months since his death. His name and image are displayed on the center field wall at Angel Stadium. During Players’ Weekend last weekend, several notable players — among them Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Lucas Giolito and Jack Flaherty — wore his name on their backs. Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella, the Angels’ representatives, wore No. 45 in the All-Star Game, and all players wore the number on a patch over their hearts during pregame festivities.

On July 13, the Angels, in their first home game since Skaggs’ death, combined to throw a no-hitter against the Mariners. That night, they wore jerseys with Skaggs’ name and No. 45 on the back.

His death may have an impact on education about the issue of opioids and addiction, considered a nationwide epidemic by the U.S. government. Opioids, particularly synthetic ones, are a major driver of the increase of drug overdose deaths in the United States and were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8 percent of all drug overdose deaths), according to the CDC.

“Doing cursory research on the internet after the news broke, it sounds like it’s a problem across many lifestyles,” Ausmus said. “It’s not a unique problem to an athlete or a sport. It sounds like it’s a problem cross-culturally.”

Although the toxicology report was released, a police report has been withheld as an attorney representing Southlake has argued its publication could interfere with the investigation.

“I said at the time, it didn’t matter to me what the cause was,” Ausmus said. “We still lost someone way too early, someone that we liked and cared about. And there’s a huge void as a result. It didn’t matter to me then and it doesn’t matter to me now. The facts remain the same.”

Said Eppler: “Everyone grieves in their own way. Everyone is at different stages now on Aug. 30, and so everyone is going to have to process this at their own rate and way. I can’t speak to where everyone was in their healing process and how it will affect them. But there is no doubt it will affect them.”

“It hurts, the circumstances around it,” Andrew Heaney said. “We don’t have answers. Nobody has answers. … That isn’t going to change the way I remember him and view him.”
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T15D23

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