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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Police: Willis arrested on drunken driving charge in Miami Beach


MIAMI Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis was arrested Friday morning on a drunken driving charge along a Miami Beach street lined with nightclubs.

An officer saw the former NL rookie of the year stop his black Bentley in the South Beach neighborhood, get out of the car around 4:30 a.m. and urinate in the street. Miami Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said the officer noticed signs of intoxication as he approached Willis, who failed a field sobriety test.

He couldn t keep his balance, he had a strong smell of alcohol, Hernandez said.

The 24-year-old Willis was arrested and taken to a police station, where he refused a breath test, Hernandez said. He arrived at the Miami-Dade County jail around 6 a.m. and was being held on $1,000 bond, jail spokeswoman Chandra Gavin Dinkins said.

Marlins spokesman P.J. Loyello declined comment. Willis agent, Matt Sosnick, did not immediately return early morning phone messages left at his California office.

Willis finished last season 12-12 with a 3.87 ERA in 223 1-3 innings. In 2005, he led the major leagues with 22 wins and finished second in the National League Cy Young Award balloting. Willis was the NL rookie of the year in 2003, the year the Marlins beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

In 127 starts with the Marlins since being called up from Double-A Carolina early in the 2003 season, Willis is 58-39 with a 3.44 ERA.

He earned $4.35 million this past season and is likely to make at least $6 million in 2007, once he and the Marlins come to terms on what s expected to be another one-year deal.

Willis has been Florida s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award presented annually to major league players displaying a commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others in each of the last two seasons. He was married earlier this month.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com .

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