Police in Venezuela have arrested four people in the aftermath of the deaths of former major-leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo, who were killed in a car crash early Friday morning.
Yaracuy governor Julio Leon Heredia tweeted that police detained four people in possession of personal items belonging to the deceased players. Venezuelan news reports indicated that the players may actually have been victims of an intended robbery that led to their deaths.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “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.”
There had been conflicting reports as to whether the vehicle was struck by a rock thrown on the road or veered off the road trying to avoid an object in the road. According to a tweet by Heredia, it was the latter.
Both Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37, were teammates on the Venezuelan Winter League club Cardinales de Lara. A third teammate, former major leaguer Carlos Rivero, was also a passenger in the car. Both Rivero and the driver survived.
The players had played in a game Thursday and left separate from the rest of the team. Team official Gustavo Andrade told the Times that the players “had appointments of some sort at the United States Embassy.”
Primarily a third baseman who also saw action at the other three infield positions, Valbuena hit a career-high 25 homers for the Houston Astros in 2015. In an 11-year major league career, he batted .226 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .394 slugging percentage, 114 homers and 367 RBIs in 1,011 games.
Valbuena broke into the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. He subsequently played for the Cleveland Indians (2009-11), the Chicago Cubs (2012-14), the Astros (2015-16) and the Angels (2017-18).
Castillo played five years in the majors, for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2004-07), the San Francisco Giants (2008) and the Astros (2008). In 592 career games, he hit .254 with a .296 on-base percentage, a .379 slugging percentage, 39 homers and 218 RBIs.
Rivero, 30, had a brief major league stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He collected four hits in seven at-bats (.571 average) while hitting a home run and driving in three runs.
—Field Level Media