By Terrance Turner
May 17, 2022
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Matt Harvey has been suspended 60 games without pay for distributing a prohibited drug of abuse. In February, Harvey admitted to giving oxycodone to late Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs, 27, was found dead in his hotel room in Southlake, TX, in July 2019. An autopsy later found that he died of asphyxiation by vomiting, with oxycodone, alcohol and fentanyl in his system. That medical examiner later lost his job due to errors in other cases, according to ESPN. His replacement said that Skaggs died of an overdose of fentanyl. (According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.” It has a high risk for addiction and dependence. Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug prescribed for pain, marketed as OxyContin.)
Harvey admitted to giving Skaggs oxycodone during the federal trial of former Angels communications director Eric Kay, who was later convicted of distributing the fentanyl that caused Skaggs’ death. Harvey testified that he was introduced to oxycodone by Skaggs during spring training in 2019. According to the Los Angeles Times, Harvey said he went to Skaggs’ house, and Skaggs showed him a bag of 5-6 pills. Harvey didn’t ty it that day, but did later.
Harvey testified he tried oxycodone for the first time in 2019, with Skaggs, at the Angels’ stadium. But he didn’t like the effect. ‘It felt overwhelming to me,’ he told the court. ‘I felt shaky and sweaty.’ He took oxycodone again after that day, but ‘not frequently’. Harvey said Skaggs told him he’d crush and snort oxycodone pills in the Angels clubhouse bathroom.
Harvey said he shared ‘three, maybe four’ pills with Skaggs in June 2019, but couldn’t remember whether they were Percocet or oxycodone. The prosecution then showed the jury a photo of a Google search for ‘k56 pink pill’ — which contains 10 milligrams of oxycodone hydrochloride — on Skaggs’ phone, dated June 7, 2019. Harvey said that was around the time that he gave Skaggs the pills.
Harvey also testified to using other drugs during his baseball career, admitting he was a ‘partier’. The prosecutor asked: “What did you party with?” Harvey answered: “Cocaine.” Harvey admitted that he used both cocaine and Percocet throughout his career. (Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can cause euphoria, alertness, and addiction; Percocet is a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, used to treat pain.)
Defense attorney Michael Molfetta asked Harvey: “Did you lie about your use of cocaine?” Harvey replied: “No one really asked.” He was still using cocaine when he went to California, according to NJ.com. (Harvey played for the New York Mets from 2012 to 2018. He later moved to the Cincinnati Reds and L.A. Angels. He and Skaggs were teammates on the Angels in 2019.)
Harvey said he got Percocet pills at the start of 2019 season and used them in mid-April. He also said he shared Percocets with Skaggs. “He had asked me… if I had anything and I think I said I had” either Percocet or oxy at the time, he said in court.
Harvey testified that Skaggs texted him asking for two pills to get “loosey-goosey” after the trip. Harvey said he gave him six or seven Percocet pills — all that he had left from the batch he received from his friend in Rhode Island — in the Angels’ clubhouse on June 22. Harvey said he didn’t know if Skaggs obtained drugs from anyone besides Kay.
The prosecutor asked: “Was it common for players to use oxycodone and Tylenol?” Harvey answered: “Yes.”
After Harvey’s testimony, details began to leak out about his drug use. Former ESPN Mets reporter Adam Rubin tweeted: “I’ll say this and then stop: The Mets told me a looong time ago, before anything like this was public, that they tried to help him, as did his agent. So they weren’t willfully blind to what was going on because they were getting performance.”
Former Mets manager Terry Collins talked to the New York Post about Harvey, and said he wasn’t surprised the right-hander admitted to using cocaine. “The answer is, probably not,” Collins told The Post. “There was a testing program going on throughout Major League Baseball. We weren’t allowed to do any of our own stuff. There were accusations that were being thrown around the clubhouse, for sure, but I had no proof of it at all. I can just tell you what guys were saying.
There was a time I addressed an off-the-field issue with one of the other guys on the team and his statement was, ‘Well, I’m not doing what Matt Harvey is doing.’ I said, ‘This isn’t about Matt Harvey, this is about you.’ I tried to get off that subject as fast as I could. Was there knowledge in the clubhouse? Without question.”
Harvey’s tumultuous Mets tenure included a missed game, for which he was suspended, after a night of partying in 2017 and instances of reporting late to the ballpark. Harvey notably went AWOL from the Mets workout at Citi Field before the team traveled to Los Angeles for the NL Division Series in 2015.
Collins acknowledged Monday that Harvey’s behavior was erratic enough to warrant counseling with the Mets’ mental skills coach. “Certainly, that was addressed,” Collins said. “Again, it’s Matt, and one time he talked about, ‘I should just kill myself.’ That’s kind of a common excuse. You try to deal with it the best you can. We certainly tried to get him help, get him some assistance.”