For the Tigers, it's business as usual in Venezuela

For the Tigers, it's business as usual in Venezuela

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers have one of the strongest Venezuelan operations of any Major League club -- in fact, it's the strength of their international scouting and player development. For now, that's not going to change in light of recent shifts in U.S.-Venezuelan relations and a report out of Venezuela that the Mariners plan to close their Venezuelan academy.

The Tigers are one of a handful of teams with an academy in Venezuela and a team in the Venezuelan Summer League. The academy has helped them build a talent pipeline to Detroit that has developed players such as Bruce Rondon, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Angel Nesbitt, Dixon Machado and Hernan Perez.

They've done so while dealing with the challenges of working in a nation that has a tricky relationship with the United States. That relationship became testier with recent news that Venezuela has tightened visa restrictions on American citizens traveling into the country. A report on Thursday from Venezuelan journalist Ignacio Serrano said an Astros scout was turned away at an airport for insufficient paperwork.

Tigers international scouting director Tom Moore said the team is monitoring the situation, but that as long as the situation doesn't deteriorate, they anticipate operating as is -- from the academy to their scouting presence, including his presence later this year.

"You do have to think about other plans in case," Moore acknowledged. "Obviously, we try to be as prepared as we can. But it's a country that's very passionate about the game of baseball."

The Tigers' Venezuelan staff is unaffected by travel restrictions. Their Latin American operations director, Miguel Garcia, is a Venezuelan citizen who resides in Panama, so he's able to travel back and forth without the restrictions that Americans apparently now face.

Because the Tigers have an academy in Venezuela, they'll still be able to scout players, regardless. The question will be how many top officials can travel there to be part of the process. Moore said they still anticipate being able to travel to Venezuela. He still plans on making his regularly scheduled trip there ahead of the international signing period and summer league.

"Right now, I'm planning as if it's just going to be another step in the process," Moore said.

Any closing of another team's academy would be a concern for the Tigers, as far as being able to have a competitive league for their prospects. Still, the advantages of having an academy there outweigh the disadvantages of having fewer teams there to play.

Jason Beck has been's Tigers beat reporter since 2002. He covered 119 losses in 2003 and an AL pennant in 2006.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.