- Enrique Rojas, ESPNdeportes
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Brayan Villarreal's family home in Venezuela was attacked by three armed robbers who threatened to kidnap his relatives in the future, his agent told ESPNDeportes.com.
The Detroit Tigers relief pitcher authorized agent Hector Gomez to tell the story of Friday's attack in San Diego, Valencia, about 112 miles from Caracas, as a warning to other players about the dangers that their families could be facing in Venezuela.
Police were alerted about suspicious circumstances by a neighbor. The robbers had assaulted Villarreal's father and threatened to kill his mother and his little brother if they made any noise when officers arrived.
"The guys put a gun in the mouth of Brayan's father and his little 14-year-old brother, threatening that they would return and kidnap everybody if they said anything to the police. When the authorities reached the house to investigate if something was going on, they threatened everyone to not open the door," Gomez said Sunday.
According to official state statistics, kidnappings have increased substantially in the past few years with more than 600 accounted for in 2009. Last November, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped and later rescued, and in November 2010 the father of San Diego Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista was murdered during the robbery of an expensive watch.
"It was a really dangerous situation. Thank God that no one is hurt, but the family had to leave the house and go somewhere else for fear of being attacked again," Gomez said. "Brayan is well and he's focused on the upcoming season, but it's really not that easy to play baseball in peace while your family is going through something like that at home."
Gomez added that Major League Baseball's investigation unit and the government of Venezuela are aware of the incident, as well as the Tigers' front office.
"His family was unharmed. He remains in camp and he plans to remain in camp," Tigers president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Sunday.
Villarreal, 25, was 3-5 last season for the Tigers with a 2.63 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. He has worked three games this spring and, along with fellow Venezuelan Bruce Rondon, is a candidate to be Detroit's closer.
Asked if Villareal would remain on a normal schedule in the wake of the situation, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "We'll play that by ear, like you do when you have any disruption because of a personal issue."
ESPN.com senior writer Jayson Stark contributed to this report.
9hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com