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Villarreal's family safe after kidnapping attempt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The parents and youngest brother of Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal are safe and unharmed after surviving a kidnapping attempt in Venezuela, the Tigers and Villarreal's agent confirmed on Sunday.

The news was first reported via Twitter on Saturday by Billy Russo, a Chicago-based sports journalist. Jon Morosi of confirmed the news with Villarreal's agent, Hector Gomez, on Sunday morning.

The incident happened on Friday in the Venezuelan city of San Diego, just outside of Valencia. According to Gomez, a group of gunmen apparently broke into the home and tied up the father and brother while trying to take valuables from the home, such as electronics and jewelry. Somebody passing by the home noticed something suspicious and called police.

After police and the gunmen exchanged fire, the would-be kidnappers tried using the mother as a hostage but soon fled, leaving the family behind, Gomez said. The entire ordeal apparently unfolded quickly.

Other than some bumps and bruises to the father, everyone is believed to be OK.

"The family's in good hands now," Gomez said.

Villarreal learned of the attempt on Friday, Gomez said. Once he notified Gomez on Saturday, they alerted Major League Baseball's security.

Villarreal will remain in camp, according to the Tigers and Gomez. Instead of Villarreal flying home to Venezuela, Gomez said they're working to bring the family to the United States as soon as possible and reunite them with Villarreal and his second-youngest brother, who is with him in Florida.

Villarreal was not on the Tigers' travel roster for their game on Sunday against the Braves and was unavailable for comment. He is scheduled to pitch on Monday.

"We all know he's a strong kid," Gomez said.

Villarreal and the family wanted to get the news out, Gomez said, to alert other players with families in the Valencia area. The recent history of kidnappings in Venezuela has put many players on alert the last couple years.

The Tigers had a first-hand history with such incidents when Ugueth Urbina's mother was taken hostage late in the 2004 season. She spent several months in captivity before being freed. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was taken hostage during winter ball following the 2011 season.

Villarreal spent most of the offseason in Venezuela. He pitched in winter ball before discomfort in his arm prompted the Tigers to shut him down and have him focus on workouts in preparation for Spring Training.

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