Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had opioids in his system when he died, coroner says

The death was determined to be accidental.

In this June 29, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws to the Oakland Athletics during a baseball game in Anaheim, California. Skaggs died from a toxic mix of the powerful painkillers fentanyl, and oxycodone along with alcohol in an accidental overdose, a medical examiner in Texas ruled in a report released Friday.
In this June 29, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs throws to the Oakland Athletics during a baseball game in Anaheim, California. Skaggs died from a toxic mix of the powerful painkillers fentanyl, and oxycodone along with alcohol in an accidental overdose, a medical examiner in Texas ruled in a report released Friday. –Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP File Photo

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system when he died in a Texas hotel room last month, according to an autopsy report released Friday by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office.

The report answered some questions about the mysterious death of Skaggs, a 27-year-old left-hander who was found dead hours before the Angels were to play a game against the Texas Rangers. But his family immediately raised troubling new ones by releasing a statement suggesting that an Angels employee might have played a role in Skaggs’ death.

“We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them,” the family said in their statement, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

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Family members praised the Texas police detectives who are investigating the case and said they had hired the Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin, who has represented a number of sports figures over the years, to assist them.

The official cause of Skaggs’ death was ruled to be intoxication from those substances along with “terminal aspiration of gastric contents,” meaning he choked on his own vomit. The death was determined to be accidental.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 30 to 50 times as strong as heroin and can be fatal in low doses, and oxycodone is a prescription painkiller. Oxycodone is on Major League Baseball’s banned substance list, as well as fentanyl, which is considered a drug of abuse. Skaggs’ blood alcohol concentration was 0.122%, higher than the limit of 0.08% that is legal for driving in Texas.

The police department in Southlake, Texas, said an investigation into the death was continuing but released no other information. The Angels released a short statement expressing sadness at the autopsy findings but did not address family members’ statement that they were “shocked” to learn, apparently from the police, that a team employee might have been involved in Skaggs’ death. The Southlake Police Department said an investigation into the death was continuing, but released no other information.

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“Tyler was and always will be a beloved member of the Angels Family and we are deeply saddened to learn what caused this tragic death,” the team said. “Angels Baseball has provided our full cooperation and assistance to the Southlake Police as they conduct their investigation.”

Skaggs’ body was found in a room at the Angels’ team hotel in the early afternoon on July 1, hours before the team was to have opened a series against the Rangers. The police said they had found Skaggs dead after responding to a call about an unconscious man. He was discovered fully clothed, and the police said at the time that they did not suspect foul play or suicide.

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His death stunned the Angels. The team’s game was postponed and they quickly changed hotels; players then hung Skaggs’ jersey in their dugout and carved his initials into the back of the pitcher’s mound when they returned to the field the next day. The Angels owner Arte Moreno called Skaggs’ death “a punch in the heart.”

Skaggs made 96 starts across seven major league seasons, going 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA. But as a young left-hander, he still held great promise, and he beat the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals in consecutive road starts in the weeks before his death, allowing one run and no walks over a combined 12 1/3 innings.

The Angels always had high hopes for Skaggs, and they acquired him twice. They signed him as a first-round draft choice from Santa Monica High School in California in 2009, traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks a year later and brought him back in 2013. Skaggs developed into a regular part of the rotation, and though he often fought injuries, he had made all his starts this season and led the team in innings pitched before his death.