Ex-MLB play­ers killed in car crash


LOS AN­GE­LES – For­mer An­gels in­fielder Luis Val­buena, who played in Ana­heim as re­cently as Au­gust, was killed in a car crash early Fri­day af­ter play­ing in a win­ter league game in his na­tive Venezuela.

Car­de­nales de Lara team­mate Jose Castillo also died in the wreck, the club con­firmed.

Val­buena, Castillo and for­mer ma­jor league player Car­los Rivero were trav­el­ing from Caracas to Bar­quisimeto, where the Car­de­nales are based, when their car struck a rock and veered off the road, ac­cord­ing to Beis­bol­Play.com. Rivero and the car’s driver sur­vived, the re­port said, but Castillo and Val­buena were ejected from the ve­hi­cle and died. Nei­ther was wear­ing a seat belt.

Val­buena turned 33 a week ago on Nov. 30. Castillo, who played for the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates, San Fran­cisco Gi­ants and Hous­ton Astros from 2004 to 2008, was 37.

Au­thor­i­ties said the play­ers may have been the in­tended vic­tims of crim­i­nals in Venezuela who throw rocks onto road­ways to dis­able cars or cause crashes and then rob the ve­hi­cles’ oc­cu­pants. Four sus­pects found with Val­buena’s and Castillo’s per­sonal be­long­ings were ar­rested by po­lice, state gover­nor Julio Leon Here­dia wrote on Twit­ter.

A team of­fi­cial told re­porters Fri­day that Val­buena and Castillo had per­sonal busi­ness to at­tend to and chose to trans­port them­selves sep­a­rately.

“They had ap­point­ments of some sort at the United States Em­bassy,” Gus­tavo An­drade said in Span­ish. “They departed by their own means af­ter (Thurs­day’s) game.”

Be­fore sign­ing a two-year con­tract with the An­gels as a free agent in 2017, Val­buena had started to show prom­ise. He bat­ted .260 with 13 home runs and an .816 on­base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age with the Astros in 2016, but was lim­ited to only 90 games be­cause of a ham­string in­jury. He did not re­gain form and wound up hit­ting .199 in 213 games with the An­gels.

Val­buena, who bat­ted .226 in 1,011 ca­reer games, was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment and later re­leased by the An­gels in Au­gust. Like he did ev­ery off­sea­son since 2006, he re­turned home to play in the Liga Venezuela Beis­bol Pro­fe­sional in the fall. He had a .278 av­er­age, 11 dou­bles, seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 45 games there.

In his last game on Thurs­day, he went 1 for 4 and was part of a dou­ble play with for­mer An­gels catcher Fran­cisco Ar­cia, who was re­leased ear­lier this off­sea­son.

Val­buena was one of the Seat­tle Mariners’ top prospects when he made his ma­jor league de­but in 2008. He also played for the Cleve­land In­di­ans and Chicago Cubs dur­ing his 11-year ca­reer.

Harper done in D.C?

If there were doubts about whether All-Star out­fielder Bryce Harper would re­turn to the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, team owner Mark Lerner on Fri­day didn’t give fans any rea­son to be op­ti­mistic.

“I re­ally don’t ex­pect him to come back at this point,” Lerner said on 106.7 The Fan, mak­ing his first sub­stan­tial com­ments on the mat­ter. “I think they’ve (Harper and agent Scott Bo­ras) de­cided to move on. There’s just too much money out there that he’d be leav­ing on the ta­ble. That’s just not Mr. Bo­ras’ M.O. to leave money on the ta­ble.”

In Septem­ber, Harper re­port­edly re­jected a 10-year con­tract from the Na­tion­als worth around $300 mil­lion.

Also Fri­day, the Na­tion­als of­fi­cially agreed to terms on a six-year, $140 mil­lion con­tract with All-Star left-handed pitcher Pa­trick Corbin and un­veiled him at a press con­fer­ence. He was one of the top free agent pitch­ers on the mar­ket.

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