Police arrest Willis outside South Beach nightclub

MIAMI -- Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis was released from jail Friday after being charged with drunken driving when a police officer noticed him stumbling and confused outside his car in Miami Beach.

Dontrelle Willis Willis

Willis told reporters gathered outside Miami-Dade County jail that he would try to set a better example for his fans: "I'll do a better job."

On Tuesday, Willis released a statement thanking those who have supported him after the arrest.

"Related to the incident on December 22, 2006, I want to thank everyone involved for their support and encouragement. Concerning the specifics of the evening, I acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and I understand that there is a legal process that needs to be followed. As I respect this process, the police and those involved, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. Thank you again for understanding my position and for your continued support."

The 2003 NL Rookie of the Year was arrested around 4 a.m. Friday after an officer noticed he had double-parked his black Bentley along a South Beach street lined with nightclubs, according to a police report. The officer said he saw Willis urinate on the street, so he later approached him after responding to an emergency call.

The officer said that Willis had watery eyes, slurred speech and appeared "confused and disoriented."

"He couldn't keep his balance; he had a strong smell of alcohol," police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said.

Willis, 24, was arrested and taken to a police station, where he refused a breath test, Hernandez said. He spent more than six hours in jail before being released on $1,000 bail, jail spokeswoman Chandra Gavin Dinkins said.

"We're aware of the situation but we have no comment," P.J. Loyello, the Marlins' vice president for communications, told the Miami Herald.

Matt Sosnick, Willis' agent, told the Herald "We owe it to Dontrelle and the process to let it play out."

Willis, a left-hander, went 12-12 this past season 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 NL Cy Young Award balloting.

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 last season, is eligible for arbitration and is likely to make at least $6 million in 2007.

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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.