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Giants demote top prospect Kyle Harrison amid playoff push



© Sergio Estrada | 2023 Sep 13

The Giants are sending left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison back down to Triple-A, pressing pause on a promising — and at times scintillating — debut.

Harrison, 22, made five starts for the Giants, posting a 5.18 ERA. He flashed an electric fastball, striking out five Phillies in his debut and 11 in a 6.1-inning shutout his next outing.

Harrison’s fastball velocity was down in his most recent start, in which he allowed five runs (three earned) in four innings against the Guardians.

Pitchers who are optioned to the minor leagues must stay down for a minimum of 15 days, unless they replace an injured player. Since it’s Sept. 15, that means there’s a non-zero possibility Harrison doesn’t pitch again for the Giants this regular season.

The Giants brought Harrison up to boost a starting rotation that had been operating with only Logan Webb and Alex Cobb as traditional starters. At the time of his demotion, San Francisco had much closer to a true five-man rotation with Webb, Cobb, Harrison, Sean Manaea and rookie Keaton Winn.

San Francisco went 3-2 in Harrison’s starts during the most pivotal stretch of their season. Before Friday’s game in Coors Field, the Giants were essentially in a four-way tie for the final wild card spot. The club owned 47.3% playoff odds when the day started.

Harrison’s demotion doesn’t carry serious service time implications because of how late the Giants brought him up initially. He’ll still have rookie status in 2024 no matter what.

To take Harrison’s spot on the 28-man roster, the Giants are returning and reinstating Ross Stripling from the 15-day injured list. The veteran pitcher had been in limbo for the past week, reiterating to the team and the public that he’s fully healthy and ready to pitch even while the club opted to keep him on the IL.

The Giants don’t have many pitchers with minor league options, with Harrison, Winn and Ryan Walker as the only rookies on the staff. More established players with options like Tyler Rogers and Webb are deserving mainstays on the team. The only way to avoid sending Harrison down while activating Stripling would have been designating a veteran for assignment.

Stripling has a 5.29 ERA this season as both a starter and reliever. Although he was pitching significantly better before hitting the IL with a mild back strain — boasting a 35-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio in his past 10 games — Harrison almost certainly gives the Giants a better chance to win games than he does, both now and in the future.