Ex-Giant infielder Castillo, Valbuena killed in car crash
Former Giants infielder Jose Castillo and former major leaguer Luis Valbuena were killed in a car crash in Venezuela caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday.
Castillo, 37, and Valbuena, 33, 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.
Castillo and Valbuena were teammates on the Cardenales de Lara team in the Venezuelan winter league and were returning from a game in the capital of Caracas 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.
Castillo played five seasons with Pittsburgh, the Giants and Houston. He had a .254 career average with 39 home runs. He played most of the 2008 season with the Giants, batting .244 with six homers, 35 RBIs and 42 runs in 112 games. After being designated for assignment in August, he was claimed by Houston, where he finished the season.
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 Jose Castillo, 37, was killed Thursday in a car crash in Venezuela along with former major leaguer Luis Valbuena.
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.”
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement calling it “a very sad day for our sport.”
“It is clear by all the stories today that they loved baseball and made an impact on their teammates and the clubs they represented,” he said, expressing “my deepest condolences to their families, friends and fans, particularly those in their native Venezuela.” NATIONALS OWNER THINKS HARPER IS GONE >> As with most things involving the Washington Nationals’ offseason, a day that was supposed to be all about introducing Patrick Corbin morphed into a day about Bryce Harper.
Washington announced its six-year contract with Corbin, a heavily backloaded deal worth $140 million, and the All-Star lefty starter donned a No. 46 Nationals jersey as rotationmates Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looked on from the front row Friday. After the news conference, general manager Mike Rizzo was asked a key question:
How might the big bucks he used to outbid the Yankees and Phillies for Corbin affect the pursuit of Washington’s own big-deal free agent, right fielder Harper?
“I think they’re independent of each other. I really do. We’ve gone about this business of creating a roster for 2019, and at the end of the day, we’ll figure out whether that includes ‘Harp’ or not,” Rizzo said. “We thought it was good business we had to fix the things we needed to fix. ‘Harp’ is a big part of our family, and we’d love to have him back.”
But in an interview Friday with radio station 106.7 The Fan, Nationals owner Mark Lerner painted a different picture about where things stand with Harper, who didn’t accept a lateseason offer from Washington.
“I really don’t expect him to come back at this point,” Lerner said. “I think they’ve decided to move on. There’s just too much money out there that he’d be leaving on the table.”
Lerner also described the team’s earlier offer to the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and 2015 NL MVP, reportedly for $300 million over 10 years, as “the best we can do.”
The Harper issue hangs over all of baseball as the winter meetings are set to begin Monday in Las Vegas.
Corbin is a two-time NL All-Star who was 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA for Arizona in 2018.
RICHARDS FINALIZES CONTRACT >> Free agent pitcher Garrett Richards and the San Diego Padres finalized a $15.5 million, twoyear contract. Richards will earn $7 million next year and $8.5 million in 2020 as part of the deal.