The mystery of Darryl Strawberry's whereabouts was solved Monday night when he was arrested at a Tampa, Fla., hospital, ending another bizarre episode in the former major leaguer's life.
The troubled star was taken into custody at St. Joseph's Hospital on a violation of probation warrant, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department.
Strawberry, 39, had been missing since Thursday, when he failed to return to his apartment in a Tampa drug treatment center. The eight-time National League all-star had been under house arrest after being charged with cocaine possession and solicitation of prostitution two years ago.
He is also undergoing treatment for colon cancer, and in the past has talked of suicide, friends said.
Police issued a warrant for Strawberry's arrest Friday after being tipped off by the electronic monitoring device he is to wear that he missed curfew after attending a drug counseling session.
Among several leads investigated was one that he had been kidnapped and was being held somewhere in the Orlando area for $50,000 ransom.
Over the weekend, Ronald Dock, a drug counselor for the New York Yankees, relayed to St. Petersburg police a report that a friend of Strawberry said he had been abducted.
Then on Monday, Hillsborough County deputies heard from Strawberry's probation officer, who said that a relative of the suspended player had received a phone call from Strawberry. Strawberry reportedly repeated the $50,000 ransom figure and said he was being held in the Orlando area, Carter said.
According to some published reports, Strawberry's wife Charisse and the couple's children were staying with friends in Orlando.
But another lead developed late Monday, when a longtime friend of Strawberry told the Associated Press that the former player was safe in an undisclosed hospital.
Ray Negron, a Cleveland Indian consultant and a Strawberry advisor when Strawberry played for the Yankees, told the wire service: "The search is over and Darryl is OK. We've put him in a hospital to make sure he's taken care of. He's OK."
Police later apprehended him. Further details of his disappearance were unknown.
Among those who have expressed concern for Strawberry's well-being over the past few days are Yankee Manager Joe Torre and former teammate and Tampa resident Dwight Gooden. Gooden, who has a history of drug problems, has spent several hours over the last few days searching inner city Tampa neighborhoods for Strawberry.
Strawberry, a product of Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, has been suspended from baseball for drug-related causes three times in the last five years, and has battled his addiction in drug treatment centers frequently since breaking into the majors in 1983.
He has played with the New York Mets, the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and the Yankees until a final suspension by the commissioner's office two years ago seemed to signal an end to his career.
The talented but tormented star has made comebacks before, however. Sent to the minors in early 1999, he finished the season with a .327 batting average, and was called up to help the Yankees to a second consecutive World Series victory that fall.
The next summer, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his stomach, and weeks after that was arrested after a Tampa car crash. He again tested positive for cocaine.
Through tears, Strawberry told a judge in November 2000 that he had lost the will to live and had voluntarily stopped all chemotherapy.
His failure to show up at the residential drug treatment center marked his third violation of the terms of his 1999 sentence on the possession and solicitation charges. He narrowly avoided being sent to prison after the second infraction in October, when prosecutors recommended that he be remanded to a prison hospital where he could receive cancer treatment. But a judge agreed to a more lenient sentence of house arrest and outpatient treatment.
After his latest disappearance, assistant state attorney Pam Bondi said Strawberry may have exhausted all patience.
"He was given every opportunity and he has all the resources," Bondi said.
Times researcher Anna M. Virtue contributed to this report.