Durham Bulls

His mind at ease after family survives Hurricane Irma unscathed, Bulls pitcher stars

Bulls' Ryan Yarbrough delivers against the RailRiders.
Bulls' Ryan Yarbrough delivers against the RailRiders. bthomas@heraldsun.com

The last thing Ryan Yarbrough wanted to see was rain.

The Durham Bulls were set to start Game 1 of the Governors’ Cup Finals against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Yarbrough and his teammates sat in the clubhouse during an hourlong rain delay Tuesday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Rain, and lots of it, is what kept Yarbrough, a left-handed pitcher from Lakeland, Fla., glued to the television 48 hours prior to the biggest start of his Triple-A career.

When the Bulls returned from Indianapolis Sunday night after 4-3 win over the Indians, most of Yarbrough’s home state was taking a pounding from Hurricane Irma. Yarbrough, one of two Floridians on the team (infielder Patrick Leonard is the other) went straight to his hotel room, turned on CNN and watched the coverage all night.

His mom lives in St. Petersburg and his dad lives in Lakeland, between Tampa and Orlando. By the time Irma was done, millions of residents in the state were without power. When Yarbrough, 25, left practice Monday afternoon, he hadn’t heard from his parents yet. That was actually a good sign.

“Everyone asked me how my parents were doing, but I hadn’t heard anything so it didn’t sound like they are freaking out,” Yarbrough said. “We’ve been through these a couple of times growing up. Happens every other year, it helps being prepared.”

But being prepared and having to watch the devastation on the news didn’t make him feel much better.

“It’s definitely scary, this is one of the harder hitting ones we’ve had,” Yarbrough said.

By Tuesday, Irma was long gone from Florida, where the sun was out and temperatures in some parts of the state reached the high 80s. In Durham, Yarbrough and his teammates could only wait until the rain passed before they could play. It was similar to the series opener a week before against Indianapolis, where another rain delay kept the Bulls in the clubhouse. Yarbrough was also starting that day, so he knew how to mentally prepare when it happened again.

“I was just antsy,” Yarbrough said. “You just keep the mindset to stay ready and whenever they say you’re going, just get out there and get going.”

Once the game got going Yarbrough gave up singles to the first two batters, but settled down and pitched seven scoreless innings in the 6-0 Durham win. Yarbrough struck out four and only surrendered one more hit the rest of the way, at one point retiring 10 consecutive batters.

“He pitched a fantastic game,” Bulls’ manager Jared Sandberg said.

More important, Yarbrough’s mom, who works at a hospital, was doing fine.

“She was there working, in a real sturdy building,” Yarbrough said. “My dad said nothing really happened, just a little power outage, it’s supposed to be out for five days, but they got lucky. That put me at ease.”

Even without power, Yarbrough said his dad, who never misses a game, watching the Bulls play online, was determined to find an outlet somewhere so he could see Yarbrough’s performance Tuesday night.

“He wasn’t going to miss this,” Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough dedicated the win to the all of those in his home state who had to deal with a nightmarish weekend.

“This was for all the people out there,” Yarbrough said. “I’m just glad everyone is safe, honestly. As far as I know everyone was doing pretty well so I’m thankful for that.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV