LOS ANGELES -- An employee for the Los Angeles Angels told federal investigators that he provided oxycodone to Tyler Skaggs and abused it with him for years, and that two team officials were told about the young pitcher's drug use long before his death in July - a claim that the team denies.
Eric Kay, the Angels' director of communications, also gave U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents the names of five other players who he believed were using opiates while they were Angels, two sources familiar with the investigation told ESPN.
Kay's attorney, Michael Molfetta, who was reached late Friday confirmed the details of Kay's statements, given in separate meetings with DEA agents in Dallas and Los Angeles in late September.
An autopsy released in August found that the 27-year-old had fentanyl, oxycodone and ethanol in his system when he died. A medical examiner in Texas determined Skaggs choked to death on his own vomit while under the influence of alcohol and the powerful painkillers.
The fentanyl drew the attention of federal investigators, a source with knowledge of the investigation told ESPN. One senior DEA official said the agency typically gets involved in fentanyl cases in an effort to track down the source of the drug.
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.
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 told ESPN.
Agents initially learned about oxycodone transactions between Kay and Skaggs after reviewing text messages between the two, according to the sources.
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.
On Saturday, the Skaggs family's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said, "The Skaggs family continues to mourn the loss of a beloved son, brother, husband, and son-in-law. They greatly appreciate the work that law enforcement is doing, and they are patiently awaiting the results of the investigation."
Kay's mother, Sandy, reached by Outside the Lines, said her son started abusing opioids a few years after his father died in 1998. ESPN reports Kay is currently in outpatient treatment for substance abuse and has been placed on paid leave from the Angels.
Kay told investigators that he and Skaggs had worked out an arrangement in which Kay would obtain drugs for Skaggs and himself, and Skaggs would pay for them, according to ESPN. Outside the Lines reviewed Venmo transactions alleged to have occurred between Skaggs and Kay, which show a series of payments over two years ranging from $150 to $600.
The Angels released a statement Saturday in direct response to ESPN's report:
"We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics," Angels President John Carpino said. "The Angels maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB Joint Drug Agreement. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler and fully cooperate with the authorities as they continue their investigation."
Under Major League Baseball's rules, any team official made aware of a player's drug abuse must report it to the commissioner's office immediately, ESPN says. An MLB official familiar with discussions between the Angels and MLB but who spoke on the condition of anonymity said no one from the Angels ever made such a notification.
"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."
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
Tyler Skaggs death: Angels deny knowledge of young pitcher's drug use following claims made by team employee