Nick Johnson is likely to make the Orioles … “if healthy”

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When it comes to Nick Johnson, using the “if healthy” caveat makes anything that follows sound sort of silly, but manager Buck Showalter indicated yesterday that the perpetually injured first baseman is likely to make the Orioles out of spring training … if healthy.

“I think he brings some things that I’d really like to have our guys feed off of with some of the on-base percentage and deep counts,” Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.

Johnson is one of just 10 active hitters with at least 2,500 career plate appearances and an on-base percentage above .400, and the other nine guys on the list have all been superstars: Todd Helton, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto, Jason Giambi, Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones.

Of course, the problem with Johnson is that he’s 33 years old and has a total of just 3,214 plate appearances. He also hasn’t been healthy since 2009, when he batted 574 times for the Nationals, walked more (99) than he struck out (84), and got on base at a .426 clip to rank second among NL hitters.

At this point I’d certainly bet against Johnson being healthy and staying healthy, but if he can somehow manage to avoid the disabled list I’d also bet on him posting an excellent on-base percentage. Getting hurt and getting on base are simply what he does.

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.