The Yankees drafted David Phelps, developed him and used him the past three seasons as a dependable, versatile starter and reliever. It had been his organization since 2008. And then it wasn't.
The phone rang Dec. 19. Brian Cashman was at the other end of the line with the news flash. Joe Girardi called the next day. Phelps had been shipped in a package with infielder Martin Prado to Miami for righty Nathan Eovaldi and two others.
"It was emotional, man," Phelps said after the Marlins' 4-3 loss to the Mets Sunday at Citi Field. "There were a lot of people that I have really close relationships [with] in that clubhouse and even in that organization. They're the team that gave me my chance. I think the hardest call was with Joe. He was the guy that treated us like a family."
Phelps' one Subway Series start lasted a third of an inning in a 9-4 loss two years ago. He has pitched much better against the Mets this season, surrendering two or fewer earned runs in each of three starts, but owns three no-decisions.
The 28-year-old righthander went six innings Sunday and allowed three runs, one in each of the first three innings, creating a 3-1 hole. Only two of the runs were earned. The group overseen by former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long managed only four hits against Phelps, including a run-scoring double by Bartolo Colon, his second RBI against him this season. Phelps didn't walk anyone.
"He's good," Ruben Tejada said. "He has good control, makes the pitches."
Yet he has struck out four times now in trying to beat the Mets.
"I feel like I have a good feel for their approach, their hitters," Phelps said. "K-Long was our hitting coach for the three years. I kind of know what his approach is.
"It's been a little thing that I've given up two runs to Bartolo [as a hitter]. I've got to do a better job of getting out of the gate, put up some zeros so our guys can get us a lead."
Phelps is 2-2 with a 3.50 ERA after 11 appearances, the last nine of them starts.
"We like pitching coming back in any trade," said Dan Jennings, who acquired him as the general manager before becoming the Marlins' manager May 18. "We had a pretty good history with him and who he is and the roles that he's filled. And he fit exactly the model that we look for."
Phelps said this is "a great opportunity for me."
He's awaiting four games against the Yankees this month, saying, "There's a lot of people I'm looking forward to seeing when we play them."