Michael Saunders, agent unhappy with criticism from Jack Zduriencik

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At the end of the regular season, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon attended a wrap-up press conference during which they were asked about the promise outfielder Michael Saunders showed despite suffering from injuries which limited his playing time. Zduriencik suggested that Saunders could do more to improve his durability, while McClendon said Saunders could spend more time in the weight room.

Zduriencik went on several different radio stations later that day. On KJR, Dave Mahler asked him about Saunders. Zduriencik doubled down, reiterating that Saunders could be doing more to allow himself the physical capability to play a full season.

That didn’t sit well with Saunders or his agent, Mike McCann. Saunders didn’t directly speak about the issue, but Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times said the outfielder had “obvious frustration in his voice”. McCann, on the other hand, had plenty to say:

“It was shocking to hear that,” McCann said. “The first time I heard that was the day of the presser. And Michael was never told that there is something that needed to be changed. If there was, Michael Saunders would do it. These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.”

McCann also expressed disappointment that Zduriencik publicly criticized Saunders, and added that Zduriencik has yet to have a direct conversation with Saunders.

In 263 plate appearances during the regular season, Saunders hit .273/.341/.450 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. It was easily the most productive the 27-year-old had been at the plate since making his major league debut in 2009. However, Saunders made two trips to the disabled list. The first stretched from mid- to late-June due to inflammation of the A/C joint in his right shoulder. The second caused him to miss 50 games due to a strained left oblique.

Saunders earned $2.3 million during the 2014 season and is eligible for arbitration for the second of three years. Divish suggests it’s unlikely the Mariners try to move Saunders since they have him under control for two more years and the club lacks outfield depth. But one has to wonder that if an offer comes along, which would allow the Mariners to improve the team elsewhere, they would seize the opportunity to turn the page.

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.