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Kyle Harrison’s workload, Giants progression plan outlined by Farhan Zaidi

Zaidi details Giants’ plan to increase Harrison’s workload originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Kyle Harrison, the Giants’ top prospect, continues to turn heads on the mound in Triple-A.

The highly-touted left-handed pitcher began the season with the Sacramento River Cats and, outside of a couple of underwhelming outings, has impressed in his 10 short starts with the club, posting a 4.11 ERA in 30 2/3 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts while allowing 28 walks.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joined KNBR 680’s “Tolbert & Copes” on Wednesday, where he explained why Harrison, who has yet to eclipse four innings in any start this season, has continued to ramp up slowly throughout his first two months in Triple -A.

“We’ve kind of been in that (four innings pitched/60 pitch) range with Kyle,” Zaidi said. “Some of the decision has been because especially in a couple of his earlier outings where he wasn’t as efficient with his strike-throwing, the pitch counts were getting up there and we didn’t kind of want to keep extending him out. I think you’ll see him get to the 5 (innings)/75 (pitches) range as soon as this next start. He obviously had a phenomenal outing last time out, I watched a lot of it.”

The Giants’ logic is simple: They expect Harrison to have an impact at the MLB level this season and are preserving his arm in anticipation of the 21-year-old pitching for the big-league club at some point soon.

“The general thinking is two-fold,” Zaidi explained. “One is, a lot of our young pitchers, and Kyle is a good example of this, they’re much more likely to be pitching for us later in the season than early on, so a slower build-up, sort of preserving those bullets to avoid the [Stephen] Strasburg-type situation is part of the thinking there.

“The other is there’s research that we’ve done that we’ve seen out there that pitchers, generally, you can mitigate injury risk by building them up more slowly throughout the season. Not just going 4/60, 5/75, 6 /90 in successive starts, but letting guys repeat those levels multiple times to build up arm strength. It’s both to manage injury risk and to preserve bullets for later in the season.”

Harrison impressed in spring training with the Giants, but the plan for the prized prospect was never to break camp with the team. Instead, the organization wanted the southpaw to complete his last bit of development, primarily centered around improving his command, in Triple-A with the understanding that Harrison could earn a promotion quickly.

In his last outing on Tuesday, Harrison struck out nine batters across four shutout innings, a start in which he debuted his improved curveball.

“He’s been working on shortening his breaking ball a little bit. He’s got a big breaking ball that sometimes is hard to command,” Zaidi shared. “And one of the issues is he doesn’t get a lot of swings at it, because it’s so big that guys just give up on it. So he’s been working on a shorter one that 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 this next time out.”

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As Zaidi alluded to, Harrison’s leash should extend another 15 pitches or so in his starts moving forward with the likelihood of increasing his workload at least once more before a potential promotion to the big leagues.

The Giants began the 2023 season with a deep starting rotation, but injuries and struggles from starters such as Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling have shaken things up.

While top prospects such as infielder Casey Schmitt and catcher Patrick Bailey have made a noticeable impact in the big leagues, Harrison could soon be the next young star to debut with the orange and black this summer.

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