ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died Monday at the age of 27, stunning Major League Baseball and leading to the postponement of the team’s game against the Texas Rangers.
Skaggs was with the team in Texas when he was found unresponsive in his hotel room, police said . He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they were investigating, but no foul play was suspected.
Skaggs was “an important part of the Angels Family,” the team said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carli, and his entire family during this devastating time.”
Skaggs, who would have turned 28 on July 13 and was married just seven months ago, had been a regular in the Angels’ starting rotation since late 2016, when he returned from Tommy John surgery. He struggled with injuries repeatedly over the past three seasons but persevered to become a valuable starter in Los Angeles’ injury-plagued rotation.
The left-hander had just pitched on Saturday, allowing two runs in 4 1/3 innings in a 4-0 loss to Oakland. He was scheduled to start the series finale at Texas, on the Fourth of July holiday.
A photo of Angels players wearing cowboy hats by their plane was posted on Skaggs’ Instagram account Sunday, with the pitcher writing “Howdy y’all” and making a reference to the team’s road trip to Texas. The Angels are scheduled to go to Houston for a three-game series this weekend after playing the Rangers.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was “deeply saddened” by Skaggs’ death.
“We will support the Angels’ organization through this most difficult period, and we will make a variety of resources available to Tyler’s teammates and other members of the baseball family,” Manfred said in a statement.
Skaggs is the first Angels player to die during a season since Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunken driver 10 years ago. The 22-year-old rookie right-hander was coming off his first start of the 2009 season, his fourth career game in the big leagues.
Jose Fernandez, a two-time All-Star pitcher for the Miami Marlins, was killed in a boating crash near Miami Beach, Florida, in September 2016. He was 24.
Pitcher Darryl Kile, who played in the majors for 12 seasons (1992-2002) was on the road with the St. Louis Cardinals when he died in June 2002 in his Chicago hotel room at age 33. Albert Pujols, now a member of the Angels, was Kile’s teammate then.
Angels players and coaches who had arrived at the Rangers’ ballpark for Monday night’s series opener left about three hours before the scheduled start of the game to return to their hotel. The clubhouse was never opened to the media.
The Rangers’ clubhouse also was closed when general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward told their players what had happened and dismissed them.
Woodward described it as “one of those moments where you’re just kind of numb” and said the Rangers were thinking about Skaggs’ family and the Angels organization.
“There were a lot of pretty emotional guys in there, you could tell. Some guys knew him. (Jesse Chavez) had actually played with him in LA,” Woodward said. “Some guys that didn’t even know him were visibly shaken. You could tell.”
Rangers officials said there had been no discussions on the status of Tuesday’s game or the rest of what was supposed to be a four-game series. They said only that Monday’s game would not be made up this week.
“Real life takes precedence here,” Daniels said. “Some things are a lot bigger than baseball.”
Skaggs was born in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills, in the far western part of the sprawling San Fernando Valley. He graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2009, when the Angels drafted him in the first round.
The Angels traded Skaggs to Arizona in 2010, and he started his big league career with 13 appearances over two seasons for the Diamondbacks. The Angels reacquired him in December 2013, and he won 25 games over five seasons with the club.
Skaggs started a career-high 24 games last season, going 8-10 with a 4.02 ERA. He missed playing time in April this season with a sprained ankle but came back strong.
Skaggs was part of the same Angels’ draft class as Mike Trout, and they were roommates in the low minor leagues before Skaggs was traded to Arizona. They played on the same team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2010.
Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, who played with Skaggs in the Diamondbacks organization, tweeted: “We came up together. We won together. We laughed and celebrated together. Today, we all lose and mourn together.”
Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, was the longtime softball coach at Santa Monica High School. She famously provided postgame tips on his pitching mechanics, even deep into his big-league career.
Skaggs grew up in Santa Monica, on the west side of the sprawling Los Angeles metroplex, but rooted for the Angels instead of the closer Dodgers.