ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of an accidental overdose from a toxic mix of the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone along with alcohol, a Texas medical examiner said in a report released Friday.
Skaggs’ family issued a statement suggesting a team employee was part of the investigation into the death.
“That is completely out of character for someone who worked so hard to become a Major League Baseball player and had a very promising future in the game he loved so much,” the family said less than two hours after the coroner’s report was made public. “We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them.”
The 27-year-old Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1 before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office report said Skaggs died as a result of “mixed ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents.”
It said simply: “Manner of death: Accident.” The coroner’s office didn’t comment further.
The death rocked baseball shortly before the All-Star Game and laid bare the emotions of Angels manager Brad Ausmus, star outfielder Mike Trout and fellow left-hander Andrew Heaney, his best friend on the team, along with the rest of his teammates and LA staff members.
The family statement thanked police in the Dallas suburb of Southlake for its investigation and said they “were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels.” The family said it had hired Texas attorney Rusty Hardin to try to determine how Skaggs ended up with the drugs.
“We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol,” the family said.
Southlake police said the investigation was ongoing and wouldn’t release additional information.
The Angels said the club was cooperating with the investigation.
“We were unaware of the allegation and will investigate,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.
Skaggs wouldn’t necessarily have been subject to testing by Major League Baseball for the drugs found in his system. Players on 40-man rosters are tested for drugs of abuse only if the player-management joint treatment board finds reasonable cause, if a player has been found to have used or possessed a drug of abuse, or if a player is subjected to testing under a treatment program.
The Southern California native was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2009 and made his big league debut with Arizona three years later after being traded.
Skaggs returned to the Angels in 2014 and missed all of the next season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left elbow. He also spent more than three months on the disabled list in 2017 with a right oblique muscle strain. Skaggs was 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA in 96 career appearances, all starts.
The day before he died, Skaggs posted a picture on Instagram of him and the Angels in cowboy hats and other western clothing outside their plane. Skaggs organized the effort because the club was stopping in both major league cities in Texas.
The first game after Skaggs died was played without music or the usual in-game promotions for the Rangers, who painted his number “45” on the back of the mound at Globe Life Park. Ausmus and his players fought back tears talking about the death with reporters.
In their first home game after Skaggs died, the Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 13-0 on a combined no-hitter from Taylor Cole and Félix Peña. All the LA players were wearing Skaggs’ number and covered the mound with their jerseys after the victory. It was a day before what would have been Skaggs’ 28th birthday.