May 30, 2024
Harrison, 22, will make his MLB debut Tuesday against the Phillies: "I think he’s going to handle the pressure well."

PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Harrison is officially a major leaguer.

Well, not officially. Not until he is added to the roster Tuesday, when he will make his debut against the Phillies.

But standing at his locker here, in front of his gray No. 45 jersey, the newly minted 22-year-old sure looked the part as the Giants’ top pitching prospect in a decade addressed his highly anticipated promotion.

Your reaction to the news?

“I couldn’t happier to be here. Ready to help these guys out with whatever they need.”

How do you think you’ll handle the notorious Philly fans?

“People tell me it’s the same game everywhere you go. So just keep that in mind, go out there and trust my stuff and do the best I can to help the boys win.”

What helped you start finding the strike zone more consistently?

“I think it was just kind of a mental thing with me, just slowing the game down.”

These were big-league answers — cliches — from Harrison, who has long shown poise beyond his age. He even pulled the oldest big-league move of them all, showing up about 20 minutes after his scheduled time to meet with reporters.

Still, there were signs of his youthfulness. The scruffy patch of blond facial hair on his chin. The dimples that formed as he couldn’t contain his boyish smile.

That was the first thing Kapler noticed when Harrison walked into his office Monday afternoon.

“He walked in the door and he was smiling,” Kapler said.

But Kapler is confident the stage won’t be too big for him.

Beneficial even, perhaps.

“Sometimes those nerves can give you a little bit of extra adrenaline,” he said. “If you channel those nerves and adrenaline, it can turn into velocity, it can turn into command.”

Commanding his arsenal was the final step for Harrison. He’s added a harder, sharper version of his sweeping slider, and he said he plans to break out his developing changeup more often. It took until his final two outings at Sacramento to string together consecutive starts without issuing a walk.

That, as well as the hitter-friendly conditions of the Pacific Coast League, contributed to an unremarkable 4.66 ERA that was more than a point higher than at any of his other stops in the minor leagues. A hamstring injury in July delayed his debut, but it also helped him resolve those issues, he said.

“Early in the season, we talked about how fastball control early in the season was kind of spotty,” Harrison said. “Then it evolved from fastball control to harnessing the fastball to losing the slider a little bit. It’s a little give and take with pitching. … Getting hurt and going to AZ obviously wasn’t ideal, but I think it helped me in a lot of different ways that got me out of a somewhat rough season that I was going through at the start.”

Another contributing factor: the automated strike zone at Triple-A, which is notoriously small, especially at the top of the zone, where Harrison’s deceptive fastball is most effective.

“The ABS was pretty tough. It was pretty tight for pitchers,” Harrison said. “The strike zone for me felt pretty low. (Up) is kind of where I love to pitch.”

Kapler concurred, adding that “I do think that’s a big deal.”

A road debut meant that Harrison’s family — mom, dad, girlfriend, brother, a few friends — had to trek across the country, rather than merely across the Bay Bridge.

Kapler said he agreed with the assessment catcher Patrick Bailey gave to this news organization and The Athletic. Bailey has been a batterymate of Harrison’s at three different minor-league levels and is expected to add a fourth club to that list Tuesday.

“The thing I was most surprised about when I saw him in ’21 at San Jose was the composure that he had as a high schooler was like something I’ve never seen,” Bailey said. “It was really cool to see. There’s just big moments where he knows he’s the guy.”

It doesn’t get much bigger than a late-season game against the team directly ahead of them in the wild card standings. And, oh, don’t forget about the four clubs bunched within a game and a half behind them. At the end of this three-game set in Philadelphia, the Giants could just as easily reclaim the top spot in the wild card standings as they could fall out of playoff position entirely.

So, you know, no pressure.

“I mean, who knows,” Bailey couched. “It’s his debut.”

“I think he’s going to handle the pressure well,” Kapler said. “That’s no guarantee that he’s going to go out and throw six shutout innings. But he could. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he does.”

Six? Harrison hasn’t gone more than five innings in a start this season and threw 60 pitches in his last start. Harrison said he planned to build on that in his next outing at Sacramento, but that, of course, never came. He will do that building on a major-league mound, as he found out Sunday from Triple-A manager Dave Brundage.

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“He came in and was telling me we’re just going to have to push back your normal start and you’re starting in El Paso and went on and on, so he lost my interest,” Harrison recalled. “Then he kicked me out of the room and actually pulled me back in and said the name of the ballpark here, and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ It was crazy.”

Walking into the visitor’s clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park for the first time Monday afternoon, Harrison said it was “pretty surreal. I don’t think it’s even hit me yet.”

He planned to shadow Logan Webb, a longtime friend and mentor, during Monday night’s game. After that?

“Hopefully I sleep.”

Notable

— The Giants got news after a scary moment Sunday when Thairo Estrada was hit by a pitch, nearly replicating the way he suffered his broken hand that sidelined him for a month. The pitch from Kirby Yates hit him in the forearm — no bone — and scans came back clean. With just a wrap of athletic tape over his right wrist/forearm, Estrada was held out of the lineup Monday as a precaution but expected to be available off the bench.

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