Ryan Christian Yarbrough
- Bats Right, Throws Left
- Height 6' 5", Weight 205 lb.
- School Santa Fe Community College, Old Dominion University
- High School All Saints Academy
- Debut March 31, 2018
Pitcher Ryan Yarbrough was drafted twice out of Old Dominion University, the first time by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 20th round in 2013, and later by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round in 2014, after which he did sign.
He began his career in 2014 with the Pulaski Mariners and the Everett AquaSox, going 0-1, 1.27 in 14 games. In 2015, he made 22 starts between three teams, the AZL Mariners, the Clinton LumberKings and the Bakersfield Blaze. His combined record was 4-8, 4.10, logging 96 2 /3 innings and recording 88 strikeouts. In 2016, he moved up to the Jackson Generals of the AA Texas League, where he was a solid 12-4, 2.95 in 25 games, all starts. He had 99 Ks and 31 BBs in 128 1/3 innings and was named the league's Pitcher of the Year. On January 11, 2017, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with 18-year-old infield prospect Carlos Vargas and OF Mallex Smith in return for major league starting pitcher Drew Smyly.
Yarbrough made his major league debut with the Rays at the beginning of the 2018 season, pitching 4 innings and giving up just one run in a relief appearance that was part of a "bullpen start" against the Boston Red Sox. He continued to pitch in long relief with the occasional bullpen start thrown in, so that in his first 10 appearances, he had 7 games of between 4 and 5 innings, but none longer, in spite of making just three starts. That unusual usage pattern continued on May 19th, when he had the longest outing of his career thus far after he replaced short reliever Sergio Romo, who was making the first start of his career after 588 relief appearances, after the veteran had pitched a perfect 1st inning, striking out the side against the Los Angeles Angels. He took the relay and pitched six scoreless innings before giving up a run in the 8th and leaving after 6 1/3 innings. He received credit for the Rays' 5-3 win, his 4th of the year, with three having come in long relief and one as a starter. On August 20th, he was th winner in a 1-0 defeat of the Kansas City Royals in another long relief appearance as part of a bullpen day. This time he pitched 5 1/3 innings and recorded his 10th relief win of the season, and 12th overall against just 5 losses as he had taken to his unusual role like a fish to water. His 96 relief innings were the most in the majors and he was almost certain at that point to be the first reliever to top 100 innings since Scott Proctor in 2006. The Rays' players devised a name for his pioneering role on the pitching staff, calling him the "bulk man", i.e. he was the one pitching the bulk of innings on days he worked, although he was not the starting pitcher (or the "opener" as the Rays called those who pitched the 1st inning but were not expected to get much beyond the 2nd or 3rd before being replaced).
It was in the role of "bulk man" that Yarbrough almost put his name in the record books on July 14, 2019. The Rays' most reliable opener, Ryne Stanek started that day's game with 2 perfect innings against the Baltimore Orioles, then passed the ball on to Ryan, who was outstanding. He reeled off six perfect innings to take the perfect game bid into the 9th inning. It would have been the first combined perfect game in major league history, but the O's Hanser Alberto broke it up by leading off the 9th with a single. It was not a hard-hit ball either, as he simply took advantage of a defensive shift to push a ground ball in the hole left where the second baseman would normally have been standing in a normal defensive alignment. Alberto eventually came in to score as two other pitcher, Oliver Drake and Emilio Pagan, completed the inning, but Ryan received credit for the 4-1 win. On August 11th, he came within one out of his first career shutout against his former team, the Mariners. He got through 8 2/3 innings and had retired the last 14 batters in order when, with a 1-0 lead, manager Kevin Cash took him out in favor of Emilio Pagan, who recorded the final out. His pitch count was just 99, but it was the longest outing of his career. He confessed after the game that he was a little miffed that he hadn't been allowed to get the final out, but Cash explained that he was suitably impressed with his performance and simply wanted to win the game. The win improved his record to 11-3.
On June 3, 2021, he pitched a 9-inning complete game in a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees. It was the first complete game thrown by a Rays pitcher since Matt Andriese had done so on May 14, 2016 - over five years earlier! He went 9-7, 5.11 that season, making 21 starts in 30 appearances and logging 155 innings. The rays finished first in the AL East, but he did not appear in any postseason games. In 2022, his ERA improved to 4.50, but his record was only 3-8 as he made 9 starts in 20 appearances, pitching 80 innings. Once again, he did not appear in the postseason. He became a free agent after the season and on December 13th signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals for $3 million.
On May 7, 2023, he was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Noda, of the Oakland Athletics. He was immediately taken out of the game and was diagnosed with multiple facial fractures, but still received credit for his first win of the season, as he had completed the mandatory five innings before the accident.
- 2016 Pitcher of the Year Southern League Jackson Generals
- 2018 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2018)
- Mandy Bell: "Royals sign southpaw Yarbrough to 1-year deal", mlb.com, December 13, 2022.