Jim Leyland decides on Joaquin Benoit as Tigers’ closer

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Phil Coke did most of the closing in the playoffs and the Tigers went into the season talking about a “closer-by-committee” situation, but now manager Jim Leyland has settled on Joaquin Benoit as the primary ninth-inning reliever.

“On a lot of the days, if it’s doable, I think Benoit is the most experienced and versatile enough against righties and lefties to pitch the ninth,” Leyland told Jason Beck of MLB.com.

The part about “righties and lefties” may be a nod to Coke’s struggles versus right-handed hitters, which have made it tough to trust him to close things out. However, because the Tigers won’t use Benoit on three consecutive days Leyland may still have to turn to Coke once in a while.

And of course whenever they decide Jose Valverde is “ready” to rejoin the team he’ll presumably get a chance to reclaim his old role.

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.