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Justin Miller, former Blue Jays pitcher, found dead at age 35

Justin Miller in his final major league game on July 18, 2010
Justin Miller in his final major league game on July 18, 2010
Dilip Vishwanat

According to a Tampa Bay Times article, former Blue Jays reliever Justin Miller was found dead this past Wednesday night at around 10:30. He was just 35 years old. His former teammate Bob File tweeted the news Friday evening.

The right hander from Torrance, California was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round of the 1997 amateur draft before being traded to the Oakland Athletics in 1999 in a three-way trade that involved former Blue Jay Henry Blanco. Miller, along with Eric Hinske, was involved in the first trade completed by then-general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who had dealt closer Billy Koch to the Athletics in December 2001.

Miller made his major league debut with the Blue Jays on April 12, 2002 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, getting the win coming in relief of Brian Cooper. He made three more appearances in relief before being converted into a starter for much of the rest of 2002. He went through shoulder surgery and did not pitch in 2003, re-appearing in 2004 to make 15 starts. Miller made his best career start that year, tossing an eight-inning two-hit shutout against the Anaheim Angels on September 8. He spent much of 2005 in AAA Syracuse, making just one appearance with the Blue Jays before electing free agency.

Miller played briefly in Japan for he Chiba Lotte Marines, then returned to Major League Baseball with the Marlins, GIants, and the Dodgers. His last professional appearance came on July 23, 2011 for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Underneath his uniform, Miller was known for his love of tattoos. One of the most known of his tattoos is the one that reads "I Love Billy Koch", which spanned his buttocks. Koch, who had signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays in 2005, encouraged Miller and his wife by offering a $1500 reward. In 2004, after complaints from batters, Major League Baseball instituted the "Justin Miller rule" that forced him to wear long sleeves on the mound.

After his retirement from playing, he founded Justin Miller’s Legacy Baseball/Softball & Personal Training in Clearwater, Florida where he coached and trained.

Miller leaves behind his wife Jessica and sons Joseph, 18, and Johnnie, 7.