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.