Valbuena, once a Los Angeles Angels player, and Castillo, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, and the Houston Astros, died when their vehicle veered off the road, the Orange County Register reported.
“We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer Jose Castillo have died in a car accident,” Major League Baseball said in a tweet.
We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer José Castillo have died in a car accident. pic.twitter.com/C3nILO00SE
— MLB (@MLB) December 7, 2018
Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37, were playing in a Venezuelan winter baseball league and were teammates on the Cardenales de Lara team, according to the Athletic.
“We are living a horrible tragedy in Cardenales de Lara. We lost our players Luis Valbuena and José Castillo in a traffic accident,” the Venezuelan club tweeted.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Carlos Rivero was driving the car, the Orange County Register reported, and he survived the accident.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief,” the Angels said in a tweet.
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief. pic.twitter.com/GxegOtJXuB
— Angels (@Angels) December 7, 2018
Venezuelan media cited by the New York Post said the crash occurred in Yaracuy, one of Venezuela’s 23 states.
The car they were in reportedly either hit a rock or swerved to avoid a rock before veering off the road.
The two men were said to be traveling from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to the northwestern city of Barquisimeto, where their team is based, according to CNN, citing the website BeisbolPlay, an official platform for the Professional Venezuela Baseball League.
They were heading for a baseball game scheduled for Friday.
Stints in the MLB
Valbuena played 11 seasons in the major leagues, batting .226 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .394 slugging percentage, 114 homers, and 367 RBIs in 1,011 games.
He got his MLB start in 2008 with the Seattle Mariners, before going on to play for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and the Los Angeles Angels. He was released by the Angels in August, with the website baseball-reference.com listing him as a free agent.
Valbuena hit .199 with a .253 on-base percentage, a .335 slugging percentage, 9 home runs, and 33 RBIs in 96 games for Los Angeles this year.
His career to date garnered the player over $28 million.
Castillo played five years in the major leagues, with his longest engagement being the Pittsburgh Pirates (2004-07). He also played for the San Francisco Giants (2008) and the Houston Astros (2008). In 592 career games, he hit .254 with a .296 on-base percentage, a .379 slugging percentage, 39 homers, and 218 RBIs.
He played primarily second base and third base.
Rivero briefly played major league baseball for the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He collected four hits in seven at-bats (.571 average), hitting a home run and driving in three runs.
He was in the minor leagues in the United States in 2017, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A Reno affiliate. Rivero played this year for Tijuana in the Mexican League.
All three players were born in Venezuela.