Agent: Villarreal’s family almost kidnapped

The family of Detroit Tigers right-hander Brayan Villarreal was the target of an armed kidnapping attempt in Villarreal’s native Venezuela, according to the pitcher’s agent, Hector Gomez.

Gomez told that Villarreal’s father, mother and youngest brother were unharmed in the incident, although it ended only after there was gunfire between the assailants and local police in Valencia.

The Tigers and Major League Baseball security were notified, Gomez said, and Villarreal’s family has been moved to a different residence. Villarreal, who had a 2.63 ERA in 50 appearances with Detroit last year, has remained with the Tigers at their spring camp in Lakeland, Fla.

“We spoke, and he’s thankful to God that nothing happened,” Gomez said. “He had mixed feelings. He was angry. He was confused. He was sad. He was worried about his parents. But now he knows they are safe.

“He’s OK now. I spent the night with him and his (other) brother, who is here (in Florida). We talked. He’s doing much better now. I don’t think it’s going to affect him on the field. He knows his family’s OK. Part of him wants to go down and solve the issue, but there’s no use in him going down there – other than to be a target.”

Gomez said Villarreal wants to bring the rest of his family to the United States, but that could be problematic in the near term because it’s believed that the kidnappers – who were waiting at the house when the family arrived home – stole the documentation needed for international travel.

The incident is the latest in a series of frightening – and sometimes deadly – events involving Venezuelan baseball players and their families. Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped at his parents’ home barely more than one year ago; he was held captive for several days before being rescued.

Major league players and their families are high-profile kidnapping targets in Venezuela, because of their wealth and status in a country blighted by poverty and political instability.

“There are bad people everywhere,” Gomez said. “This could have happened here, but it’s less likely. It happens a lot down there. There are a lot of poor people, a lot of poverty, and these people feel they have to do what it takes to get money. It’s sad.

“I don’t want to get into any political issues there, but it’s a scary situation for all the public figures. I hope that no family has to endure this. It’s a sad thing for anyone to endure. Brayan just wants to help his team out, he’s been getting ready for the season, and now he has to go through this.”