SAN FRANCISCO — When the Giants printed their game notes for the media on Monday afternoon, a few team officials noticed something interesting. And for the first time in months, the letters “TBD” appear to be nowhere to be found.
The Giants had a two-man rotation throughout the second half of the 2023 MLB season, and for almost the entire year there was ambiguity about at least one of the spots in a particular series. Often it is more than that. On more than one occasion, the team used Logan Webb and Alex Cobb in a series and then headed to the next town with no players announced for the next three games.
With the arrival of the Cincinnati Reds, there was a return to normalcy. Kyle Harrison gets the first game, and Cobb and Webb will follow suit. And that won’t change anytime soon, either. With how good Harrison is on Monday, there is no doubt he is here for good.
Manager Gabe Kapler has made a habit of asking him about his rotation plans at the end of post-match press conferences, and the back and forth conversations usually go something like this:
Reporter: “Do you have a start for tomorrow?”
Kappler: “We’re still working on some things. We’ll bring that back to you when we can.”
And as it ended on Monday night, there was no need for Kapler to answer any questions about the rest of the series or what Harrison would be doing five days from now. Instead, he was asked how Harrison’s performance could raise the bar for the Giants down the stretch.
He said, “Yeah, it’s worth going up a bit.” “Again, I don’t want to go too far over the top, but that’s exactly what our team needs. He’s another guy in the middle of the circle, who’ll take the ball regularly, and get deep into the game. It’s not a guarantee that it’s going to be the same every time, but he has Ability.
“That’s what we’ve seen coming for a few years, and maybe what Michael Holmes saw in him when he was [drafted him in 2020]. In many ways, Kyle Haynes has a lot to do with Kyle’s rise through the minor leagues, and all the coaches he’s touched along the way. Everyone can imagine – maybe not exactly that – but he made a great start for us on his home debut.
Haines, who runs the organization’s minor league operations, was present at the first appearance, along with Keith Snyder, who had scouted Harrison at De La Salle High in Concord. It was a moment the front office had been waiting for since Harrison took over St. Francis High School just before the pandemic, validating everything Holmes and the rest of his staff felt about the left-hander.
The first night couldn’t have been any better, as Harrison became the first Giant since Randy Johnson to strike out the first five batters of the game. He finished the season with 11, but as the Giants head into September, it wasn’t the most important number.
For months, Harrison patiently sat as the Giants forced him to work a strict outfield number. He’s come out of Triple-A games in the third or fourth inning knowing there’s more in the tank. Harrison got excited every time the number got close to 100, and on Monday, with some trepidation, Kapler let him throw 91.
It was about eight times more than Harrison has thrown in the past five months, but he didn’t get nervous. This is what he was building for. Harrison showed up at the team’s facility after he was drafted as a teenager and realized he was going to play with the men. In the low minors, he went wide the other way, but settled into a strong frame. He wants more on his plate, and the Giants have finally allowed it.
“I was relieved,” Harrison said. “They kept asking, How are you?” I was like, “I’m good.” That adrenaline is a little different here. just me [fed] off that.”
Harrison isn’t quite ready to be a regular player right now, but as the Giants head into their final month, he’s close. They had been patient in April and May in hopes of saving some leads for the more important games, and Harrison had little left to give. The Giants now have a third player capable of giving them five or six innings every fifth day, and if things continue in that direction, Harrison could start the postseason two months after his debut.
It’s early days, and there will be bumps in the road, but that’s exactly what the Giants need. Harrison, in one amazing night, raised the floor and ceiling after two months of baseball that was sometimes hard to watch.
Maybe that’s the way it was meant to be all along. This is the message Webb sent to his friend after a quiet trading period.
“I wrote to him and said this shows you that they trust and believe in you,” Webb said. “They want you to be here. I thought that was right for that, right?”
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