Today was decision day for the Rangers, as manager Ron Washington made some important calls about the composition of his pitching staff. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Washington will put Tanner Scheppers in the rotation and transition Alexi Ogando into a set-up role. In turn, he has opted for Joakim Soria over Neftali Feliz for the closer role.
Scheppers entered spring training as a long shot to secure a rotation spot, but injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison and a poor spring from Ogando opened the door. The 27-year-old right-hander has also pitched well during Cactus League play, posting a 3.07 ERA and 14/4 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings. This includes an impressive outing yesterday. Scheppers, who had a a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings out of the Rangers bullpen last season, has only made 12 starts in pro ball, all of them in the minors. Despite the inexperience, the Rangers are willing to experiment.
Feliz was considered the early favorite to replace Joe Nathan at closer, but he has shown diminished velocity this spring while allowing four runs on 11 hits and one walk over eight innings. Meanwhile, Soria has allowed just two baserunners over six scoreless innings. Washington said that Feliz’s role is yet to be determined and that he’s still competing for a job.
The Los Angeles Times reports that federal agents have interviewed at least six current and former Angels players as part of their investigation into the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Among the players questioned: Andrew Heaney, Noé Ramirez, Trevor Cahill, and Matt Harvey. An industry source tells NBC Sports that the interviews by federal agents are part of simultaneous investigations into Skaggs’ death by United States Attorneys in both Texas and California.
There has been no suggestion that the players are under criminal scrutiny or are suspected of using opioids. Rather, they are witnesses to the ongoing investigation and their statements have been sought to shed light on drug use by Skaggs and the procurement of illegal drugs by him and others in and around the club.
Skaggs asphyxiated while under the influence of fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol in his Texas hotel room on July 1. This past weekend, ESPN reported that Eric Kay, the Los Angeles Angels’ Director of Communications, knew that Skaggs was an Oxycontin addict, is an addict himself, and purchased opioids for Skaggs and used them with him on multiple occasions. Kay has told DEA agents that, apart from Skaggs, at least five other Angels players are opioid users and that other Angels officials knew of Skaggs’ use. The Angels have denied Kay’s allegations.
In some ways this all resembles what happened in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, when multiple players were interviewed and subsequently called as witnesses in prosecutions that came to be known as the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. There, no baseball players were charged with crimes in connection with what was found to be a cocaine epidemic inside Major League clubhouses, but their presence as witnesses caused the prosecutions to be national news for weeks and months on end.