Ex-play­ers die in car wreck

Venezue­lan of­fi­cials blame crash on high­way ban­dits found with stolen prop­erty

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS -

For­mer ma­jor league play­ers Luis Val­buena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car crash caused by high­way ban­dits who then robbed them, of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

The 33-year-old Val­buena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thurs­day when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an ob­ject placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Here­dia said on his Twit­ter ac­count.

He said four peo­ple have been de­tained af­ter be­ing found with prop­erty of the ath­letes.

Val­buena and Castillo were team­mates on the Car­de­nales de Lara team in the Venezue­lan win­ter league and were re­turn­ing from a game in the cap­i­tal when the crash oc­curred en route to the city of Bar­quisimeto.

Third base­man Car­los Rivero was in the car and sur­vived, ac­cord­ing to the web­site beis­bol­play.

Val­buena, an 11-year ma­jor league vet­eran, hit .199 with nine homers and 33 RBIS in 96 games this year for the Los An­ge­les An­gels, who re­leased him on Aug. 7.

“I will miss Luis’ ban­ter, smile, gen­uine love for his team­mates, and, of course, the bat flips,” Astros man­ager AJ Hinch said in a state­ment. “He was a beloved per­son whether he was on our team or across the field.”

Val­buena hit .226 with 114 home runs over 11 big league seasons with the An­gels, Seat­tle, Cleve­land, the Chicago Cubs and Hous­ton.

“Luis was al­ways smil­ing and was one of the hap­pi­est play­ers in base­ball,” Astros gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now said in a state­ment. “He pro­vided joy to his team­mates and our fans. He helped our fran­chise turn a cor­ner in 2015 and pro­vided many cher­ished mem­o­ries.”

Castillo played five seasons with Pitts­burgh, San Fran­cisco and Hous­ton. He had a .254 av­er­age with 39 home runs. Mets: Jared Ban­ner has been hired as the New York Mets’ ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of player devel­op­ment af­ter more than a decade with the Bos­ton Red Sox. The Mets also pro­moted Ian Levin to se­nior direc­tor of base­ball op­er­a­tions on Fri­day af­ter two years as direc­tor of player devel­op­ment, an ex­panded role that also will in­clude an­a­lyt­ics, health and per­for­mance. The 32-year-old Ban­ner is a New York na­tive who was Amherst’s base­ball cap­tain and joined the Red Sox front of­fice as a fel­low in 2007. He was an as­sis­tant in player devel­op­ment (2008-09) and am­a­teur scout­ing (2009-10), and then served as co­or­di­na­tor of am­a­teur scout­ing (2010-12), as­sis­tant direc­tor of player per­son­nel (2013-15), direc­tor of player per­son­nel (2016) and vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel (2017-18).

Car­di­nals: Now that he is with St. Louis, Paul Gold­schmidt is not think­ing be­yond 2019 sea­son. The six-time All-star was ac­quired from Ari­zona this week and will earn $14.5 mil­lion in the fi­nal sea­son of a seven-year deal that will pay $46 mil­lion, in­clud­ing a $1 mil­lion as­sign­ment bonus for the trade. If he doesn’t sign a new con­tract, he would be among the top free agents next off­sea­son. “Try not to have any dis­trac­tions, so any­thing like that won’t be on my mind,” Gold­schmidt said at his in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence Fri­day. “I think the big­gest thing is I’m ex­cited to be here, ex­cited to be part of this team and or­ga­ni­za­tion and just fo­cused on get­ting ready for spring train­ing and open­ing day and the sea­son and try­ing to help us win.”

Di­a­mond­backs: Right-han­der Mer­rill Kelly is join­ing his home­town Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, agree­ing to a $5.5 mil­lion, two-year con­tract. The 30-year-old spent the past four seasons with SK Wyverns in South Korea. He was 4832 with a 3.86 ERA, in­clud­ing 16-7 in 2017. A Scotts­dale na­tive, Kelly at­tended Desert Moun­tain High School, Yava­pai Col­lege and Ari­zona State. He was taken by Tampa Bay on the eighth round of the 2010 am­a­teur draft and rose to Triple-a in the Rays’ sys­tem. Na­tion­als: Pa­trick Corbin put on his No. 46 Washington Na­tion­als jer­sey as ro­ta­tion-mates Max Scherzer and Stephen Stras­burg looked on from the front row at the news con­fer­ence to in­tro­duce the lefty starter with the $140 mil­lion, six-year con­tract. The Na­tion­als an­nounced the ad­di­tion of free-agent Corbin on Fri­day, the lat­est in a flurry of off­sea­son moves by gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo. One of the team’s other re­cent ac­qui­si­tions, catcher Yan Gomes, and long-time first base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man were also at Na­tion­als Park for the an­nounce­ment. Rizzo said the deal with Corbin, 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA for Ari­zona in 2018, is “in­de­pen­dent” of what might hap­pen with right fielder Bryce Harper, who has played his en­tire ca­reer for the Na­tion­als and is a free agent.

Padres: Free agent pitcher Gar­rett Richards and the San Diego Padres have fi­nal­ized a $15.5 mil­lion, two-year con­tract. Richards will earn $7 mil­lion next year and $8.5 mil­lion in 2020 as part of the deal an­nounced Fri­day. He can earn an ad­di­tional $2.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally in per­for­mance bonuses: $250,000 for each start from 21 through 30. Richards was 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA last sea­son for the Los An­ge­les An­gels be­fore re­con­struc­tive surgery in July. The 30-year-old right-han­der was 45-38 with a 3.54 ERA with the An­gels since 2011.

Ja­son Miller / Getty Im­ages

Jose Castillo, left, pic­tured in a spring train­ing game from 2007 and Luis Val­buena, in a photo from 2017 in Cleve­land, died in a car ac­ci­dent in Venezuela. Of­fi­cials blamed high­way ban­dits for caus­ing the wreck.

Photo By Gre­gory Shamus / Getty Im­ages

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