Yankees relief pitcher Andrew Miller walks to the dugout during an interleague game against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2016
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Andrew Miller was still in bed sleeping Sunday morning when jarred awake at 8:45 by the ringing of his cell phone.
He looked at his phone. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was calling.
“I think I knew,” Miller said.
Cashman delivered news that jarred one of baseball’s best relievers:
About 31 hours before Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, the All-Star left-hander had been moved to the Cleveland Indians for four prospects.
“I expected Monday to be a little nerve-racking more than anything,” Miller said. “Maybe that’s why I was caught a little off guard. But I’m kind of numb, too. We’ve been hearing it for a couple weeks. That’s kind of been the media’s angle on it.”
Miller is going to a first-place ballclub, but sad about leaving a 52-51 Yankees team that now has traded two closers in seven days, first Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs last Monday.
“I’m disappointed,” Miller said after making a final visit to the Yankees clubhouse around 11:30 a.m. “There’s a lot of guys here I liked a lot. Hopefully I’ve had some friendships that will last beyond this. I’ll be pulling for a lot of them for a long time. It’s a good group of guys. It’s been fun playing here, and that’s a big reason why.”
Miller answered questions for almost nine minutes standing in front of the locker that he’d used the two previous days in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field, both Yankees losses to a last-place Tampa Bay Rays club that seemingly sealed his fate.
A few minutes earlier, a clubhouse manager had emptied the locker by loading Miller’s gloves, spikes and clothes into a Yankees traveling bag. Miller’s locker name plate was removed, too, by the time of his visit.
Miller didn’t see this coming even though his name has been in constant trade rumors, one just two days earlier involving the Washington Nationals.
“I was out of the loop,” he said.
Miller kept believing in the Yankees and figured he’d be part of their present and future because he wasn’t even halfway through a four-year, $36-million contract that had become very team friendly.
“I expected leading up to the deadline it was going to get … at least the chatter was going to pick up again,” Miller said. “I was pretty surprised this morning to get the phone call, but that might have just been the fact that I was sleeping still.
“I’m not totally shocked. I’ve been talking about it since, shoot, spring training even, so it’s just the reality of the game. I had no control over it, so I’ll go with the flow.”
Miller, 31, was everything the Yankees hoped for and more when signing him in December 2014. In two seasons, the 6-foot-7 Gainesville, Fla., native was 9-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 45 saves and 177 strikeouts in 107 innings over 104 appearances
Miller was tremendous closing last season for the Yankees, then graciously accepted a switch to a setup role this season after the club traded for Chapman last winter. He was even better this season, through early May closing again with Chapman suspended and after that as an eighth-inning guy in a No Runs DMC Bullpen that is no more.
Miller now is gone just a few weeks after representing the Yankees at the All-Star Game, his first.
“I liked living in New York,” he said. “A lot of guys on this team I really like a lot. I’m going to miss that. I think it’s a first-class organization and it’s where I signed up to play, but for me now I get a chance to go to a team that’s in the thick of it and has big plans for this year.
“So you’ve got to look at the positives. I look forward to going to Cleveland and helping those guys reach their goals.”