Former Angels infielder Luis Valbuena, who played in Anaheim as recently as August, was killed in a car crash early Friday after playing in a winter league game in his native Venezuela.
Cardenales de Lara teammate Jose Castillo also died in the wreck, the club confirmed.
Valbuena, Castillo and former major league player Carlos Rivero were traveling from Caracas to Barquisimeto, where the Cardenales are based, when their car struck a rock and veered off the road, according to BeisbolPlay.com. Rivero and the car’s driver survived, the report said, but Castillo and Valbuena were ejected from the vehicle and died. Neither was wearing a seat belt.
Valbuena turned 33 a week ago on Nov. 30. Castillo, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros from 2004 to 2008, was 37.
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. Four suspects found with Valbuena’s and Castillo's personal belongings were arrested by police, state governor Julio León Heredia wrote on Twitter.
A team official told reporters Friday that Valbuena and Castillo had personal business to attend to and chose to transport themselves separately.