V. Zambrano's mother unharmed

CARACAS, Venezuela -- The mother of former major league pitcher Victor Zambrano has been rescued after a three-day kidnapping ordeal, Venezuelan authorities said Wednesday.

Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano, 56, was rescued Tuesday during a "commando-style operation" in the central state of Aragua, federal police chief Wilmer Flores Trosel said.

Zambrano said having his mother alongside him again is a "great joy."

"I never thought we could be together again so soon," he said.

Trosel said Mendez Zambrano was held in a makeshift dwelling near a highway, where she was only once offered food.

Three men have been detained, including two brothers and one man wanted for homicide, Trosel said. He said a fourth suspect has been identified, a 24-year-old man wanted nationally for homicide and robbery.

Police said seven armed men burst into Mendez Zambrano's home at her son's farm near Maracay on Sunday morning and kidnapped her because they didn't find large amounts of cash and jewelry.

Zambrano's mother was abducted nine days after the former big league pitcher's cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano, was kidnapped and later killed. Police have declined to comment on whether the two incidents were related.

Zambrano played for Tampa Bay, the New York Mets, Toronto and Baltimore. The right-hander had a career record of 45-44 with a 4.64 ERA.

He hasn't appeared in the majors since 2007, and currently plays in Venezuela's winter league.

Crime is rampant in Venezuela, and families of wealthy athletes are periodically targeted by criminals. Another former major league player, Jose Castillo, said he was robbed by armed men on motorcycles as he left his luxury hotel in a taxi Tuesday on the way to Caracas stadium.

Castillo, who plays for the Caracas Lions, said the robbers took his gold chain and wedding ring.

In June, Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's son and brother-in-law were kidnapped and released a day later.