FILE - In this May 25, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels third baseman Luis Valbuena throws out Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier on a sacrifice bunt during the fifth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

Luis Valbuena, Former Giants Player Jose Castillo Die In Car Crash In Venezuela

December 07, 2018 - 10:36 am

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Former major league players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car crash following a winter league game in Venezuela.

The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday, according to Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan league.

The team's administrative director, Gustavo Andrade, confirmed reports that the accident was caused by a rock placed on the highway, apparently by bandits trying to force cars to stop on the highway between the capital, Caracas, and the city of Barquisimeto.

"How many other Venezuelans on highways across the nation have lost their lives because ... of those people who put objects on the highway for the purpose of later making an assault?" he told local news media.

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 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 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.

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