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Ugueth Urbina talks to reporters from behind bars in a Venezuelan jail. ((Associated Press))

Formermajor-league pitcher Ugueth Urbina, who spent six-plus seasons with the Montreal Expos, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch.

Urbina was also found guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty and violating a prohibition against taking justice into his own hands during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005, in Venezuela.

"The ruling was too severe," said Jose Antonio Baez, a former lawyer who represented Urbina.

The 33-year-old free agent was accused of joining a group of men in attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at the ranch, located about 40 kilometres south of Caracas.

Five workers were injured, and one of them suffered burns on the back and right arm, police said.

Urbina repeatedly has insisted he had nothing to do with the incident, saying he was sleeping at the time of the attack.

In October 2005, the pitcher suggested the workers were just looking to be paid off by their wealthy employer. It's not uncommon in Venezuela for the rich and famous to be blackmailed or kidnapped in an attempt by criminals to extort money.

Urbina's lawyer, Jose Luis Tamayo, said the former major-leaguer surprised the workers by showing up at his ranch that night while they were bathing in the pool without permission. Urbina spoke sharply to them, but later left and went to sleep, according to Tamayo.

Urbina was arrested in November of2005 and later charged with attempted murder.

Past incidents

In 2004, Urbina's mother was taken hostage for five months by kidnappers demanding $6 million US. She was rescued after a gun battle between her abductors and 30 police officers.

Four years earlier, while playing for the Montreal Expos, the pitcher was arrested for brawling in a nightclub, but was later acquitted of assault charges.

A two-time all-star, Urbina last pitched in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005.

He's 30th on the all-time listwith 237 career saves and had two saves in the 2003 World Series for the victorious Florida Marlins.

He began the 2004 season as a member of the Detroit Tigers before a mid-season trade sent him to Philadelphia.

Urbina also pitched for the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers during his 11 seasons in the majors.

He was signed as a free agent by Montreal in 1990 and made his major-league debut on May 9, 1995, against Philadelphia.

With files from the Associated Press