Kyle Harrison

Harrison, expected Giants No. 2 starter, dominates in spring debut

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With only two innings to work with in his spring debut, there wasn't much that Giants starter Kyle Harrison could do on Sunday to grab bragging rights in the family group chat.

His younger brother, Connor "Bear" Harrison, won the starting catching job at St. Mary's as a true freshman and had a two-homer game this week, giving him four through his first five games.

"He's still the favorite child," Kyle said on Sunday, smiling. "He's tearing it up out there."

The older Harrison brother did make it a close race, though.

Facing a Texas Rangers lineup full of veterans, Harrison struck out four in two hitless innings on Sunday. The lone baserunner came when he hit young outfielder Evan Carter with a pitch, but a pinch-runner was thrown out at second as Harrison blew 94 mph past top prospect Wyatt Langford.

The debut couldn't have gone much better, and it was notable that it happened Sunday. Harrison is lined up as the Giants' No. 2 starter to begin the 2024 MLB season, and Bob Melvin didn't shy away from that possibility earlier in the week, saying he'd be happy if things work out that way over the next month.

"It means a lot," Harrison said. "The opportunity is there and I'm going to try to seize it and take advantage of it, but ultimately we want to win games. I don't care where I'm pitching, what position in the rotation I am -- I just want to go out there and give the team the best chance to win."

Harrison is likely to begin the year right behind Logan Webb, the staff ace and his workout partner throughout the offseason. After his own start on Saturday, Webb smiled and told reporters they would "see tomorrow" that Harrison is ready for the assignment.

"Kyle is more ready than probably everyone here," he said.

It certainly looked that way Sunday, when Harrison struck out All-Stars Marcus Semien and Jonah Heim, Silver Slugger Award winner Nathaniel Lowe, and Langford, the No. 4 overall pick in last year's MLB draft.

All four strikeouts came on fastballs, but it was the cutter that really stood out, especially given how often Harrison threw it to keep leverage in 0-1 counts. He developed the pitch last year but threw it just a handful of times in the big leagues.

Harrison has been throwing it harder this spring, and it was 90-91 mph on Sunday. He said the increased velocity simply comes from having a greater feel for the cutter, but he feels that way about his whole four-pitch repertoire.

"Year after year I've been feeling more comfortable in my delivery and the fastball is even feeling more command-able this year," he said. "Today I was peppering that top rail and even though some weren't strikes I was happy with the results."

Melvin compared Harrison's development to Webb's, in that he can build a two-pitch foundation (fastball, slider) and then add as he gets more comfortable against big league hitters. On Sunday, Harrison looked plenty comfortable, a great sign for a team that could desperately use another frontline starter as Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray go through rehab.

"Man, he was explosive today," catcher Tom Murphy said. "I feel like every guy up there was saying they felt like they had no chance against his fastball. He could have thrown that every pitch but obviously we're here in spring trying to get things ready and we made him pitch a little bit. But he lived up to the billing for sure."

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