How Harrison handles MadBum comparisons, big expectations


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After an offseason that will be remembered for missing out on superstars, the Giants have made a concerted effort this spring to highlight their internal talent, including players who have yet to reach the big leagues.

Their biggest star moving forward is ace Logan Webb. In left-handed prospect Kyle Harrison, they're hopeful they soon have another young pitcher to build around, not just on the field but off.

The Giants have been deliberate about promoting some of their top prospects in recent years, but when it comes to their best minor league pitcher in a decade, they're not shying away from the expectations. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last year that Harrison could debut relatively quickly in 2023, and both Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler have referred to Harrison as "electric" this spring. Webb said before camp that he couldn't wait for everyone to get a look at the work Harrison put in over the winter.

The Giants have seven experienced big league starters in camp and several other depth options, but they're giving Harrison a chance to show what he can do on Tuesday. He'll start a Cactus League game against the Cincinnati Reds, taking another small step toward his big league debut. 

Harrison will begin this season in Triple-A Sacramento, which means that for the first time, he will be a phone call -- and a short drive -- away from his Oracle Park debut. It's hard to ignore the hype, especially when so many family members and friends in the East Bay are preparing to watch you pitch in person, but on this week's "Giants Talk" podcast, Harrison said he's doing his best to not get caught up in the next step.

"I'm at the point now to where it is a real possibility, but I think I'm just going to treat it like I've always been treating it," he said of how close he is to the big leagues. "It's just another day at the ballpark, showing up and doing the most I can to benefit on that given day, and really, at the end of the day, I want to win. So no matter where I'm playing, I want to win and get the boys back in the dugout as quick as possible."

That approach has quickly carried Harrison through the minor leagues and won a lot of fans within the organization, including a former Giant who got a front row seat as another group of homegrown aces was leading the franchise. Ryan Vogelsong is now a roving pitching instructor for the Giants and said last summer that Harrison reminds him of Madison Bumgarner.

"If I had to put a finger on one thing: He's hungry. He wants to be great," Vogelsong said. "I hate doing this to the kid, but he has attention to detail and drive to be great like I saw in Bum. I hate labeling him like that because that's big shoes to fill, but he's hungry and he wants to be really, really good. He doesn't just want to get here. He wants to come here and be really good here and stay here for a long time and you don't see that in every guy."

Told of the comparison, Harrison smiled and said it's "unreal."

"I don't even want to think about that because part of my life was growing up watching MadBum in those World Series, watching him on the mound dominating those hitters in the playoffs," he said. 

Harrison went to high school at De La Salle in Concord and said his upbringing has a lot to do with the way he attacks his work. While De La Salle is better known nationally for its football success, the baseball team went 29-1 when Harrison was a junior (his senior season was cut short by the pandemic). Harrison was 10-0.

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"I think the hard work ethic just came from high school," he said. "I think my coach was hard on me and my parents were like, 'This is what you've got to do, you've got to commit to it.' Going to De La Salle and having that name over your head, there's a lot of targets at you. Always kind of being on your guard, I think that's what I like."

The work has gotten Harrison to the point that he can start to seriously dream about his debut. Harrison knows there's more to do to prove himself, and he noted that it'll be a good thing if the big league rotation is so strong that he isn't needed this season. But he also heard Kapler's message on the first full day of camp.

"Everyone here is going to contribute in some way," he said. "We've just got to be ready to do that."

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