New visa restrictions impact Phillies' scouting

No issues yet, but application to enter Venezuela could take 90 days to process

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Travel rules to Venezuela have changed for U.S. citizens, and that could create problems for Major League teams, including the Phillies.

Venezuela requires U.S. travelers to have a visa before entering the country. The application process could take up to 90 days, which means traveling there has become more difficult for scouts and players. At least one scout has been denied admission to the country because he did not have a travel visa.

"We haven't run into a problem yet, but we haven't tried to send anybody down there recently," Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "We've cut back on that the last three years anyway, because of the dangers there."

Phillies special assistant to the general manager Bart Braun and director of international scouting Sal Agostinelli are U.S. citizens, and they traveled to the country last season to scout players. Special assistant of player personnel Jorge Velandia has dual citizenship, so he can enter the country as he pleases.

But the new visa requirement seems to prevent any last-minute or unplanned scouting trips to the country, although Agostinelli visited the U.S. embassy in New York this week and was told it might not take the full 90 days to acquire a visa.

"I think there are some unknowns about it," Looper said. "We'll know more as it goes along."

The Phillies also might try to fly players to Curacao or Aruba, which are both off the Venezuelan coast, to have players work out for them there.

"We did send some players down this winter," Looper said. "It'll be interesting to see how it impacts winter ball."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.