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The Sports Report: Grand jury looks into Tyler Skaggs’ death

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Toronto Blue Jays
Tyler Skaggs
(Getty Images)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

A Texas grand jury has been hearing evidence that could form the basis for criminal charges related to the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, two people familiar with the matter told the Los Angeles Times.

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The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing proceedings.

Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, called the involvement of a grand jury “significant.”

Said Levenson: “It means there’s at least some concern about how widespread this incident might be by those who provided drugs, were involved in the activities, knew about them, may have made misrepresentations, whatever the connection might be.”

Skaggs was 27 when he died in his Texas hotel room July 1, hours after the Angels arrived on a flight from California. An autopsy revealed that Skaggs aspirated, with a mixture of fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system.

In October, The Times reported that at least six players with the Angels at the time of Skaggs’ death had been interviewed by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Read more Angels

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DODGERS

Hours after the Dodgers completed their first full-squad workout of the 2020 season, Mookie Betts, officially a Dodger all of eight days, reached out to his new manager with a request for the next morning.

“He asked me if he could have a few minutes with the guys,” Dave Roberts said. “I had no idea what he was going to say.”

Betts knew he had to choose — and deliver — his words wisely.

“When you’re talking from the heart, people kind of get that sense and don’t take it [the wrong] way,” Betts said. “It’s nothing I don’t do or I wouldn’t do. I’m not going to tell anybody to do something I wouldn’t do. That’s always speaking from the heart and speaking from experience.”

Betts gave a five-minute speech that Wednesday morning after members of various parts of the organization were introduced to the players. He challenged his teammates — many of whom he helped topple in the 2018 World Series — to produce the urgency necessary to win a World Series from the beginning of spring. He emphasized that even drills on the back fields in February require sharp focus. He stressed urgency every day as they launched their championship pursuit. He preached accountability and energy.

“I had never seen him do something like that before,” said David Price, Betts’ teammate in Boston the last four seasons. “That was something out of his comfort zone.”

Read more Dodgers

Julio Urias struggles in first spring outing, but Dave Roberts shrugs it off

Cody Bellinger scratched Monday after feeling discomfort in his side

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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA heads into its first spring practice Tuesday with all the momentum of a Stonehenge rock. The Bruins were humiliated during a three-game losing streak to end 2019 that included blowout losses to Utah and USC to go with a season-ending splat against California.

They retained beleaguered defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro while bidding farewell to their top running back, tight end, linebacker, defensive back and kicker. Those departures will create enticing opportunities for the more than 90 players who are expected to participate in spring practices, easily the largest number since Chip Kelly’s arrival.

Much of the focus will remain on the coach who last season seemed to acknowledge he was not getting the job done.

“You’re as good as what your record says you are,” Kelly said , who has a 7-17 record at UCLA, the worst two-year start for any coach at the school since James J. Cline went 2-10-3 in 1923 and 1924.

Here are five questions facing the Bruins heading into the spring:

Who will replace Joshua Kelley as the every-down running back?

Can quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson hold onto the ball and show more consistency?

Where did all the tight ends go and what does it mean for Kelly’s offense?

Can Azzinaro justify his boss’s decision to keep him around?

Has UCLA’s next star linebacker arrived?

You can read some possible answers to those questions by clicking here.

LAKERS

The Lakers worked out JR Smith and Dion Waiters on Monday as they began the process to fill their final roster spot, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The team might bring in other players and is in no rush to fill the spot, according to people familiar with their plans.

Waiters worked out for the Lakers on Monday morning, in a session one source said was impressive. He then met with vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka — his former agent — coach Frank Vogel and special adviser Kurt Rambis, who helps steer the front office.

NHL

NHL general managers decided not to propose changes to the existing procedures for the use of emergency backup goaltenders, a practice that came into question when 42-year-old David Ayres had to step in and play for the Carolina Hurricanes when their two goalies were injured at Toronto on Feb. 22.

General managers discussed possible changes on Monday during their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., but they decided to leave the current procedures unchanged. “There was lot of discussions,” Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, told NHL.com. “Most important from it is where we’re at and I think it worked.”

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific.

Philadelphia at Lakers, 7 p.m., TNT, Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN

Clippers at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Ducks at Chicago, 5:30 p.m., FSW, AM 830

Angels vs. Cleveland (exhibition game), Noon, FSW, AM 830

BORN ON THIS DATE

1872: Baseball player Willie Keeler (d. 1923)

1901: Figure skater Roger Turner (d. 1993)

1920: Golfer Julius Boros (d. 1994)

1958: LAFC coach Bob Bradley

1962: Football player Herschel Walker

1962: Heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee

1968: Hockey player Brian Leetch

DIED ON THIS DATE

1953: Boxer James J. Jeffries, 77

2018: Middle-distance runner Roger Bannister, 88

AND FINALLY

Roger Bannister breaks the four-minute mile. Watch it here.

Until next time...
That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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Go beyond the scoreboard

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