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Former Los Angeles Angels infielder Luis Valbuena and former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jose Castillo died in a car crash Thursday in Venezuela, according to multiple reports.
Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37, were playing winter ball in Venezuela and were teammates on the Cardenales de Lara, according to The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya. Jeff Fletcher from the Orange County Register also verified the report and said their car hit a rock and went off the road. They were traveling after a game. Carlos Rivero, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks briefly in 2014, was driving the car, according to The Register, but survived the accident.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement Friday in which he said it was a sad day for baseball.
“This is a very sad day for our sport as we mourn the deaths of Luis Valbuena and José Castillo. It is clear by all the stories today that they loved baseball and made an impact on their teammates and the Clubs they represented. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, friends and fans, particularly those in their native Venezuela.”
Valbuena started his MLB career in 2008 with the Seattle Mariners. During his 11-year career, he also played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Valbuena’s best season came in 2016, when he hit .260/.357/.459, with 13 home runs, in 342 plate appearances. Valbuena spent 2018 with the Angels. He played his final game with the team in August and was a free agent.
Castillo spent five seasons in the majors. He played four years with the Pirates and split his final season between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. Castillo’s final season in the majors came in 2008. He left the game with a .254/.296/.370 slash line. Most recently, he’d been playing professional baseball in Japan.
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