High­way ban­dits rob team­mates in Venezuela

Hartford Courant - - Sports - Associated Press

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-yearold 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 RBI 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.

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro said in a tweet that “I join in the mourn­ing that has over­whelmed the Venezue­lan baseball fam­ily and all of its fans.”

Baseball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred is­sued a state­ment call­ing it “a very sad day for our sport.”

Mets hire an­other Red Sox exec: 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 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 (201012), as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel (2013-15), di­rec­tor of player per­son­nel (2016) and vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel (2017-18).

Kelly to Di­a­mond­backs: Righthander Mer­rill Kelly is join­ing his home­town Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, agree­ing to a $5.5 mil­lion, two-year con­tract.

The Cava­liers reac­quired guard Matthew Dellave­dova on Fri­day in a three-team trade with the Bucks and Wizards.

The Cava­liers also re­ceived for­ward John Hen­son and 2021 first- and sec­ond-round picks from the Bucks, and a 2022 sec­ond-rounder from the Wizards. They sent guard Ge­orge Hill and a 2021 sec­ond-round se­lec­tion to the Bucks, and for­ward Sam Dekker to the Wizards. The Bucks also got for­ward Ja­son Smith from Wash­ing­ton.

Dellave­dova was a key mem­ber of the Cavs’ 2016 ti­tle team be­fore he signed with the Bucks later that sum­mer. His re­turn may soften what has been a dif­fi­cult sea­son, with the Cava­liers just 5-20 and re­build­ing in the wake of LeBron James’ de­par­ture.

D’An­gelo Rus­sell scored 29 points, six in over­time, and the Nets snapped an eight-game los­ing streak by beat­ing the Rap­tors 106-105. ... Kemba Walker had 21 points and eight as­sists as the Hornets snapped the Nuggets’ seven-game win­ning streak with a 113-107 vic­tory. AP

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