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Zaidi: Giants to increase Kyle Harrison’s pitch count after strong Triple-A start

© Mark J. Rebilas | 2023 Feb 24

Kyle Harrison, coming off his finest Triple-A outing, has earned an increased work load.

Giants president Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday on Tolbert & Copes that Harrison, MLB’s top left-handed pitching prospect, will add roughly an inning to his pitch count as soon as next start. That would bring the 21-year-old to five innings and 75 pitches.

The news comes after Harrison fanned nine in four hitless innings while walking one batter — while debuting a new, sharper slider — on Tuesday night against the Dodgers’ affiliate.

“He obviously had a phenomenal outing next time out — I watched a lot of it,” Zaidi said on Tolbert & Copes. “He’s been working on shortening his breaking ball a little bit. He’s got a big breaking ball that is sometimes hard to command. One of the issues is he doesn’t get a lot of swings at it, because it’s so big that guys give up on it. He’s been working on a shorter one that he, I think, debuted in that last outing. And I think it helped him a lot with the strike-throwing. I think you’ll see him build up to five innings his next time out.”

Before Tuesday, Harrison had topped out at 69 pitches. The Giants, like most other organizations, have given their starting pitching prospects a lighter load to start the year in an effort to protect their arms allow them to potentially peak later in the season — when they might be contributing at the big-league level.

“They’re much more likely to be pitching for us later in the season than early on,” Zaidi said. “So a sort of slower build-up, preserving those bullets to avoid the (Stephen) Strasburg situation is part of the thinking there. The other is there’s research that we’ve done, and that we’ve seen out there, is pitchers generally can mitigate injury risk by building them up more slowly throughout the season. Not just going 4/60, 5/75, 6/90, but letting guys repeat each of those levels multiple times to build up arm strength.”

On the season, Harrison has a 4.11 ERA in 10 starts. The lefty has struck out 56 batters in 30.2 innings, but has also walked 28.

Before Zaidi’s radio hit, the executive said Harrison must work on his command before getting promoted.

“For a guy to have the walk number he has, we would not consider calling a guy like that up,” Zaidi said. “He’s got to get better. And I don’t mean that to sound critical, he’s just a really young pitcher who hasn’t had a lot of reps. If you’re walking guys in Triple-A, you’re going to have a hard time getting through five or six innings.”

Part of Harrison’s improved control, perhaps may come with that new breaking ball. Harrison’s slider is already one of his best pitches, so this refined breaking ball would likely complement it rather than replace it.

No matter how Harrison’s arsenal evolves, increasing his pitch count is another step toward the bigs — and the club’s most anticipated MLB debut in years.


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