Friend says grief and ‘questions’ linger over untimely death of Angels pitcher
The unexpected death this week of 27-year old Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs unsettles one of his close friends.
“A lot of questions” are “being asked by lots of people,” Cleveland Indians pitcher Adam Plutko, told CNN’s “New Day” host John Berman on Wednesday.
“We all kind of know one another. I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have known him and everybody’s saying the same thing — it’s really sad and upsetting.”
Skaggs was found unresponsive in a Texas hotel room on Monday.
Police have ruled out both suicide and foul play and are waiting for the results from an autopsy that was conducted by the Tarrant County, Texas, medical examiner office on Tuesday.
Carol Walker, a spokeswoman for that office, told CNN the report will be released in “up to 90 days” but could be released sooner. She added that the medical examiner has “ordered some testing,” though she was unable to share what kinds.
Plutko said he didn’t know of any medical issues. When asked whether Skaggs suffered from mental health problems or had substance abuse issues, Plutko said, “nothing that I can speak to.”
Skaggs last pitched Saturday, completing 4⅓ innings in an Angels-Oakland A’s game in Anaheim, California.
Drafted by the Angels in 2009, Skaggs made his major league debut in 2012 and spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Describing the moment he heard that Skaggs had died, Plutko said, “It was an off day here for us here in Kansas City. I was off playing golf.”
After another golfer reported the news that an Angels pitcher had died, Plutko said he ran to his phone immediately as he knew two pitchers on the team.
Learning it was Skaggs, Plutko said he “just sort of crashed down. I didn’t know what to do.”
Plutko and Skaggs became acquainted “while playing pickup games on the scouting circuit. then, the friendship went to a different level in 2013, when the pitchers worked out together in the offseason,” according to mlb.com.
Asked what Skaggs was like, Plutko found it difficult to answer as he was flooded with “a lot of memories.”
“‘Goofy’ is what [Los Angeles Angels Manager] Brad Ausmus used to describe him,” he said, adding that the word fit.
Skaggs “always called himself the spark plug in the room,” said Plutko, remembering how Skaggs liked to “get the energy going.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers, the Angels’ first since the loss of Skaggs, a moment of silence was observed to honor the player.
“I can’t imagine what that team is going through specifically. Trying to win baseball games and be competitive out there,” said Plutko.
Despite the grief, Los Angeles Angels earned a 9-4 win over the Rangers. “They played a heck of a ball game last night,” said Plutko.
‘An angel watching over us’
After the victory, the Angels described what Skaggs meant to them.
Right fielder Kole Calhoun, who hit a home run in the 8th inning and then pointed to the sky as he crossed home plate, said, “we now got an angel watching over us now.”
All-star center fielder Mike Trout said that before the game he felt “shock.”
“It was just a different feeling,” he said, adding “it’s going to be tough these next couple of days, the rest of the season, the rest of our life, to lose our friend. We were close. All these guys in here. I see these guys more than my family. To lose someone like him…. It’s tough.”
Pitchers Andrew Heaney and Cam Bedrosian brought Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey onto the field: “We wanted to take him out there with us one more time.”
Ausmus said there was “urgency” to win: “It’s been a rough 24 hours and we haven’t had a lot to smile about.”
Skaggs was married at the end of 2018, according to his and his wife’s Instagram accounts.
Photos show them kissing and embracing on their wedding day. Carli Skaggs posted a photo of her husband wearing a black cowboy hat and black shirt on Sunday night.
A California native, Skaggs apparently enjoyed cowboy regalia. Days before a road trip to play the Texas Rangers, Skaggs asked Ausmus whether his teammates could dress up as cowboys. The team took a picture wearing their cowboy gear on Sunday. Later, Skaggs posted the picture on his Instagram account.
Plutko told Berman that “the easiest part of the day is playing baseball. Right before the game, we had a moment of silence too.” Being “alone in your thoughts” is the “hardest part,” he said.