Top prospect Harrison impresses in spring debut

February 26th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Reading too much into Spring Training probables can be an exercise in folly, but it felt notable that the Giants lined up left-hander behind ace Logan Webb over the first weekend of Cactus League action.

Could this be a look ahead to how the Giants will set up their rotation to start the regular season?

“If that’s the way it worked out, I would like it,” manager Bob Melvin said.

With veterans Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) and Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) expected to open the season on the injured list, it’s looking like the Giants will lean on Harrison to serve as their No. 2 starter at the outset of the year. It’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old rookie who has only seven Major League starts under his belt, but the Giants are confident Harrison -- their No. 1 prospect -- will be up to the challenge.

“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 certainly looked like a frontline starter in his Cactus League debut on Sunday afternoon, striking out four over two hitless innings in the Giants’ 0-0 tie against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium.

Harrison opened the bottom of the first by striking out Marcus Semien swinging on a 94 mph fastball, though he hit Evan Carter on the left forearm to put a runner on with one out. Still, Harrison proceeded to punch out Wyatt Langford and then escaped the inning with the help of veteran catcher Tom Murphy, who caught pinch-runner Elier Hernandez stealing at second to complete a strike-‘em-out, throw-'em-out, double play.

Harrison capped his dominant outing with a 1-2-3 second inning that featured another pair of K's against Nathaniel Lowe and Jonah Heim.

“He was explosive today,” Murphy said. “I feel like every guy that was up there was commenting on how they had literally 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 made him pitch a little bit. He lived up to the bill, for sure."

Harrison, the organization’s best pitching prospect since Madison Bumgarner, logged a 4.15 ERA over 34 2/3 innings for the Giants last season, though he dealt with some command issues and struggled to pitch deep into games consistently. Harrison ended up totaling only 102 1/3 innings between Triple-A Sacramento and the Majors in 2023, but he’ll be counted on to take on a bigger workload in his first full big league season.

To prepare for that leap, Harrison spent the offseason training with Webb in Arizona, splitting time between Push Performance and the Giants’ Player Development Center at Papago Park. Aside from working to refine his command of his fastball and his slurvy breaking ball, Harrison focused on improving his changeup and cutter, which he believes could generate more first-pitch outs and help him work more efficiently.

“100 percent,” Harrison said. “It was a pitch that allowed me to get back in counts and get guys out early. I’m really liking how it felt today. I threw it in a couple of 0-1 counts and felt like from there I could do whatever.”

There’s still plenty of work ahead, but Webb is among those predicting big things for Harrison this year.

“He’s more ready than probably anyone here,” Webb said.

Sandoval, Bochy reunite

Most veteran players prefer not to make the 30-mile trek from Scottsdale to Surprise, though Pablo Sandoval was more than happy to make the trip on Sunday, as it gave him a chance to see former Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

Sandoval and Bochy shared a hug prior to the game and spent a few minutes chatting on the field, marking their first in-person meeting since 2019.

“It was exciting,” said Sandoval, who went 0-for-2 with a walk in his spring debut. “I was happy to be back with him one more time.”

Sandoval said he congratulated Bochy on his World Series win with the Rangers last year, while Bochy complimented the Panda on his slimmed-down look.

“I hadn’t seen him in a while,” Bochy said. “Although I saw a lot of video of him this winter. He sent me videos of him working out and taking some swings. He looks good. I’m pulling for him.”