Harrison learns quickly in Cactus League debut

Giants catcher contenders look good vs. D-backs

March 2nd, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-hander got his first true taste of big league competition in the Giants’ 8-5 loss to the D-backs on Wednesday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk over one inning in his Cactus League debut.

“He looked good,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “This is a really, really challenging league. Guys are disciplined and make good decisions at the plate. It’s going to be more challenging to get called strikes here, and swing-and-misses are harder to come by.”

Harrison, who is ranked the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, entered the game in the sixth and gave up a leadoff single to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. before inducing a popup from Christian Walker. After walking Emmanuel Rivera, Harrison surrendered an RBI single to Carson Kelly, putting runners on the corners with one out.

Another run scored on an RBI groundout by Dominic Canzone, but the 21-year-old managed to escape further damage by blowing a 96 mph fastball past Dominic Fletcher for the final out of the inning. Harrison admitted he battled some nerves and felt he could have executed better with two strikes.

“I was curious to see how the stuff would play and what could happen,” Harrison said. “But at the end of the day, it’s baseball. You’ve got to attack guys the same way. You can’t miss spots. I learned that today.”

Harrison is slated to open the season at Triple-A Sacramento, but the Giants have made it clear that he could earn his first callup early in the season if he continues to dominate in the Minors.

Catching competition heating up

The four-way catching competition among , Rule 5 Draft pick and non-roster invitees and is officially in full swing.

Pérez, who had been slowplayed early in camp after missing significant time with a hamstring injury last year, made his Giants debut on Wednesday, catching the first four innings while going 0-for-1 with a strikeout.

A two-time Gold Glove Award winner with Cleveland, Pérez is easily the most experienced backstop in Giants camp, making him a strong candidate to win a spot in the catching corps this spring.

“I think for me, I’ve just got to stay healthy,” Pérez said last month. “I know what I can do when I’m healthy. I bring experience of being on winning teams. I feel like here they’ve got a really good staff, a really good team. They have a chance to win a lot.”

Pérez, 34, has played in only 65 games since the start of the 2021 season due to injuries, but he’s healthy now and making a strong first impression.

“He’s a good defender, and people really like him,” Kapler said. “His energy is really calming. Pitchers are going to like throwing to him because he’s going to calm people down and make people feel like they’re prepared and he’s going to be the one doing the work. It’s just a pretty calming presence behind the plate. He can really throw. He’s a very accurate thrower. His body is feeling good.”

It was a productive day for Giants catchers overall, as Sabol and Wynns both homered after subbing in for Pérez and designated hitter Joc Pederson, respectively. Wynns put San Francisco on the board with a solo shot in the seventh, while Sabol launched a two-run shot -- his second of the spring -- in the ninth.

Worth noting

• The Giants thought utility prospect would be forced to miss big league camp while rehabbing from left elbow neuritis, but he progressed quicker than expected, prompting the club to fold him back in with its group of non-roster invitees on Wednesday. It didn’t take long for the versatile 24-year-old to announce his presence -- Auerbach made his spring debut by coming in as a defensive replacement at third base in the seventh and then hammered a two-run homer to left field in his first at-bat in the eighth.

• Non-roster invitee , who is in Giants camp as a two-way player, made his pitching debut in the ninth, surrendering a solo shot to P.J. Higgins over one inning. The former Yankees and Rangers first baseman topped out at 97 mph from the left side and struck out the first batter he faced swinging on an offspeed pitch.

“That was awesome,” Kapler said. “It’s really impressive to see a guy go out there and throw a ton of strikes and throw strikes with his offspeed pitches. He was 97-98 [mph], but I don’t think that was the most interesting part of the outing. It was a true comfort level, not rattled at all. After the home run, back in the zone with offspeed pitches. He looked like a pitcher.”