The Tigers were known for their strong Venezuelan presence well before this week's blockbuster deal for Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen formed one of the strongest tandems from the country in the big leagues -- one a batting champion this year, the other a two-time All-Star shortstop. Yorman Bazardo was a find for them from the Venezuelan Winter League last offseason, while Omar Infante's Tiger tenure dated back to 2002 before he was traded last month.
Between Ordonez's batting crown this year and a World Series trip last year, the Tigers have provided Venezuela with pride the last two seasons. Now with Cabrera, they might well be a national sensation.
"It will be exciting to have our number three, four and five hitters all from Venezuela," Guillen told LasMayores.com.
The batting order still has to be worked out, manager Jim Leyland said, and a healthy Gary Sheffield might well give the Tigers reason to break up that trio. Even if Guillen and Cabrera aren't hitting next to each other, though, they live next to each other.
Both of them were born in Maracay, albeit they're about eight years apart in age. One year after Guillen broke into the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 1998, Al Avila was signing Cabrera out of Venezuela to join the Marlins organization in 1999.
They've remained close through their various stops. Now, they're about to be neighbors in Detroit.
"My relationship with Carlos is cool," Cabrera said. "I'm excited, because I'm with him."
It's not just the familiarity that makes Guillen like the deal. It's the talent he sees in his young fellow countryman.
"Miguel is a winner and consistently productive," Guillen said. "I have no doubt he'll help us a lot. He's one of the best players in baseball, despite his young age."
Ordonez was honored in October as the most valuable player from Venezuela this season on the strength of his Major League-best .363 average. Yet in terms of talent, he defers to his new teammate.
"Miguel is the best Venezuelan player out there right now, and also with the most upside," Ordonez said. "I'm proud to have him as a teammate and, together with Willis, it makes us a much stronger team. In 2007, injuries prevented us from winning, but now we should be considered favorites with these new acquisitions."
Said Cabrera: "I want to be part of a great lineup. I want to play behind Magglio Ordonez, the batting champion."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less