A report from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reveals that officials for the Los Angeles Angels were told about drug habits of pitcher Tyler Skaggs well before his death. ESPN’s sources were two unnamed individuals aware of what Eric Kay, the Angels’ director of communications, had told agents at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in late September.
Kay, who is currently on paid leave from the team and in outpatient treatment for substance abuse, reportedly told agents that he would regularly purchase drugs like oxycodone for himself and Skaggs, with the pitcher paying for the entirety of the order. This relationship had been established since at least 2017. The most salient details of what he told investigators involve the 27-year-old pitcher just before he died in a Texas hotel room on July 1.
Kay told investigators he illegally obtained six oxycodone pills and gave three to Skaggs a day or two before the team left California for the road trip to Texas, according to the two sources. Kay told DEA agents he does not think the pills he obtained for Skaggs were the same ones the pitcher took the day he died because Skaggs typically would ingest the pills immediately after receiving them from Kay, the sources said. Skaggs also texted Kay the day the team left for Texas seeking more oxycodone, a request Kay told investigators he was unable to fulfill, the sources said.
Kay told DEA investigators that hours before Skaggs’ death in July, Skaggs was in his Southlake Hilton hotel room and texted Kay to visit him, according to a source familiar with what Kay told the DEA. Kay also told investigators that Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him, the sources said. Kay recognized that two of the lines could have been crushed oxycodone, but the third was not a substance he recognized, the sources said. Kay said he did not take any drugs despite being offered them by Skaggs, the sources said, because he was on a medication that would have negated the effects.
There were two instances Kay referenced when speaking to agents of times where Angels officials were informed of Skaggs’s drug use. First was in 2017 when he brought it up to former Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead. The second happened in April when Kay was in the hospital recovering from an overdose. Kay’s mother, Sandy, told ESPN that she asked Mead to get the pitcher away from her son. Mead has denied these claims.
“I have had a lot of conversations with Eric Kay about a lot of things, but opioids and Tyler Skaggs were not one of them,” he said. Asked if he was ever aware that Skaggs used opioids before his death, Mead said, “No.”
This was a familiar refrain that Quinn seemed to receive whenever he asked organizations about Skaggs. Here’s what the Angels had to say:
“We are shocked to hear these reports. ... We had no prior knowledge of Tyler or any other member of the Angels organization having abused opioids or any narcotic and continue to work with law enforcement to get answers.”
And here’s what MLB had to say:
“MLB was unaware of any of these allegations,” an MLB spokesman told Outside the Lines. “MLB will fully cooperate with the government investigation and conduct its own investigation when the government investigation is completed.”
A federal investigation into Skaggs’s death officially began when an autopsy showed that the pitcher had fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system the night that he choked on his vomit in his sleep. The specific thing that concerned DEA agents was the fentanyl. Kay also told investigators of five players who he believed were using opiates during their tenures with the Angels, though the report does not reveal who those players are.