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Skaggs Died of Accidental Overdose, Texas Autopsy Finds
By Jorge Casuso
August 30, 2019 -- Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and powerful painkillers, a Texas medical examiner said in a report released Friday.
The results of an autopsy conducted by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office showed that the former Santa Monica High School star had fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system.
The cause of death was listed as "intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents,” meaning that Skaggs choked on his vomit after overdosing.
The manner of death was listed by the medical examiner as an "accident.”
Skaggs, 27, died July 1 in a Texas hotel room during a road trip against the Texas Rangers ("Angels Pitcher, Former Samohi Star Found Dead at Age 27," July 1, 2019).
Skaggs was pronounced dead after he was found unresponsive in his room at the Hilton Hotel in Southlake, Texas, according to local police.
On Friday Skaggs' family issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol,” the statement said.
“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.”
According to the statement, the family has hired an attorney to investigate how Skaggs obtained the dangerous drugs.
"We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels," the family wrote. "We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them."
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pharmaceutical fentanyl is "a synthetic opioid pain reliever, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain" and is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl that is "sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect," the CDC said.
"It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product -- with or without the user’s knowledge -- to increase its euphoric effects," according to the CDC website.
In 2017, some 28,400 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, a 47 percent increase oover tthe previous year, the CDC said.
It is unclear if Skaggs,whose promising major league career was plagued with injuries, had previously used opioids, which are sometimes prescribed to manage acute post-surgical pain.
His 2014 season was cut short after injuring his pitching arm and undergoing Tommy John surgery, a procedure to replace a tendon in the elbow of the pitching arm named after the Dodgers lefthander.
Skaggs scrapped a plan to pitch a game in the minors in 2015, choosing instead to give himself 18 months to recover, according to a 2015 article in the Los Angeles Times.
In 2018, he started 16 games before he was once again placed on the disabled list, missing three months after straining his abductor muscle, a group of muscles in the hip mostly used for bringing the thighs together.
He opened the 2019 season in the starting rotation but after three starts was briefly placed on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain.
Skaggs' death shocked the baseball world, which paid numerous tributes to the affable lefthander.
It was one of a number of tributes that ranged from a sand-sculpture of a giant A with wings in Dana Point Harbor to a moving impromptu ceremony around the mound after the Angels' first game home without Skaggs.
The game began with Skaggs' mother, longtime Samohi softball coach Debbie Hetman, tossing a perfect opening pitch before a combined no-hitter. After the final pitch, the team lay the jerseys they wore with Skaggs' number 45 on the mound.
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