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Cubs release Junichi Tazawa

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“Junichi Tazawa,” the old man said while staring off into the middle distance while taking a drag off his cigarette. “That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long time.”

I don’t think I even knew he was with the Chicago Cubs — pitching in Iowa — but he was. And now he’s not because the Cubs released him. They had signed him to a minor league contract at the end of spring training and he went on to post a 4.00 ERA and a 17/6 K/BB ratio in 18 innings at Triple-A.

Tazawa last pitched in the bigs last season, allowing 20 earned runs in 20 innings and 12.6 hits per nine innings in 22 appearances for Miami before being released. Late in the season he made eight far better appearances for the Angels while playing out the end of a two-year, $12 million deal he signed with the Marlins before the 2017 season.

Whether he has anything left in the tank is an open question, but given how bad everyone’s bullpen seems to be today it would not be at all shocking to see him latch on someplace, even if it’s only on another minor league deal.

Skaggs Case: Federal Agents have interviewed at least six current or former Angels players

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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.