Pirates choose Erik Bedard as Opening Day starter

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Considering his lengthy injury history making this official with two weeks left in spring training seems sort of risky, but the Pirates announced that Erik Bedard will start Opening Day.

Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters that he’d planned to give the Opening Day assignment to A.J. Burnett after the Pirates acquired him from the Yankees, but then Burnett went and fractured his orbital bone while practicing bunts. That and his ERAs the past two seasons were 5.26 and 5.15.

Bedard was very effective when healthy last year for the Mariners and Red Sox, making 24 starts with a 3.62 ERA and 125/48 K/BB ratio in 129 innings. In fact, his ERA has been under 3.80 in each of the past five years, which is why he was worth a $4.5 million investment and gets the Game 1 call ahead of James McDonald and Kevin Correia.

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.