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Miggy, Vizquel concerned about Venezuela unrest

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The sun wasn't up yet on Tuesday morning when Miguel Cabrera pulled into Joker Marchant Stadium, arriving around 6:30 a.m. for the Tigers' first full-squad workout of this Spring Training. It was barely light when he went to work on following up his back-to-back American League MVP awards.

He even beat his new manager to work, after beating Brad Ausmus to camp last week, too. As he took throws at first base in infield drills, took his swings in batting practice and joked around with his teammates, he looked more at home than ever.

He wasn't literally home, though. He's worried about his home. With student protests, security response, censorship accusations and fatalities reported, Venezuela is in unrest.

And like so many other Venezuelans in Major League Baseball, Cabrera is concerned for his family, his friends and his countrymen.

"It's hard to be here and do your work and not think about your country," Cabrera said quietly in his corner of the Tigers clubhouse. "It's hard to be here and not be able to do anything."

He isn't the only one feeling that way.

"Man, it takes everything away from you inside," new Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel said. "It's hard to do something and not think about how your family is and how things are going to progress in our country. I'm just hoping for the best right now, hoping that they get together and resolve the situation. All that we want is just the integrity, the respect, the opinion, the expression of people. We don't want to see anybody dead."

Vizquel has several family members still in Venezuela. He spent a good portion of the offseason there as a coach in winter ball. Likewise, though Cabrera spends much of his offseason in south Florida, he has family and friends in his hometown of Maracay.

The Tigers have one of the largest Venezuelan contingents of any Major League team, including starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, relievers Bruce Rondon and Jose Ortega, young infielder Hernan Perez, and numerous prospects. All of them have family and friends in Venezuela. Some were just there before heading to Spring Training.

Imagine watching protests at home from another country, even if it's an adopted home, and it's not hard to sympathize.

"Everybody's involved right now," Vizquel said. "It's a country thing. It's not only one part of a city or anything like that. Everybody in the country is involved, because it's not only happening in Caracas or Maracay. It's happening in the whole country."

As difficult as it is to watch events unfold from thousands of miles away without being able to do anything, it's similarly difficult wondering what to say that could ever help the situation. This is where the gravity of Cabrera's status as one of his country's most recognizable figures, and the way anything he says could be construed, becomes clear.

That's why he pauses to consider his words.

"I see it this way: When we play here, they give us a lot of support. Right now, a lot of players give a lot of support to the people of Venezuela," Cabrera said. "It's kind of hard right now. It's tough. It's a lot of people. You have to be careful with what you say."

Vizquel has made reference to the situation on his Twitter account, which has more than 277,000 followers, expressing pain for the suffering of his people. But he, too, has had limited tweets in recent days.

"They have to be careful what they say. We all have to be careful what we say," Vizquel said, "because we have to remember that whatever you say right now, if it is taken in the wrong way, they're going to think that we're leaning to one people. We have to be real careful with the words that we choose when we speak about this.

"But one thing is for sure: We worry about what's going on. Everybody does. We just want the best for the country, for our people. We don't want to see people dead on the streets. That's the worst thing you can see."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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