San Francisco Chronicle

No. 2 starter’s job is Harrison’s No. 1 goal

- By Susan Slusser Reach Susan Slusser: sslusser@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @susansluss­er

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Kyle Harrison looks slotted into the San Francisco Giants’ rotation neatly behind Logan Webb, one home-grown starter after another, lockermate­s and NorCal guys, to boot.

“That means a lot,” Harrison said of the possibilit­y of working in the second starter spot. “The opportunit­y is there and I’m going to try to seize it.”

Harrison, 22, started the Giants’ second game of the spring Sunday, working two scoreless innings against the worldchamp­ion Rangers and striking out four in a 0-0 tie.

He had a brief introducti­on to the big leagues last year: seven starts, not a lot for a No. 2 starter if he indeed opens the season there. But Alex Cobb is on the injured list for at least the first month as he recovers from hip surgery and Robbie Ray (Tommy John surgery) won’t be available until the second half.

“If that’s the way it works out, I’d like it,” manager Bob Melvin said of Harrison potentiall­y lining up in the No. 2 spot.

Melvin has scheduled new starter Jordan Hicks, a converted reliever, to start Tuesday. Slotting the left-handed Harrison between right-handers Webb and Hicks also makes sense; the team won’t have another lefty starter option until Ray’s return, unless it were to jump back into the Blake Snell pursuit.

Harrison went 1-1 with a more-than-respectabl­e 4.15 ERA, but because of the way he was used in the minors, he made it through six innings just once. Getting deeper into games is one area of emphasis.

“I’m really just figuring out what works best for me to be the best version of myself every five days,” Harrison said. “I’ve got a pretty good routine in place.”

Harrison is typically a highstrike­out guy, with 452 Ks in 2791⁄3 minor-league innings, an average of 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. More quick outs might mean some longer outings. That’s one area of emphasis this year, along with limiting the home-run ball — he gave up eight in just 342⁄3 major-league innings.

“Look, you can’t strike somebody out until you get to two strikes, so he’ll tend to have some innings where he throws a lot of pitches,” Melvin said. “So if he can kind of just focus on keeping the ball off the barrel of the bat early in the camp, he can get some first-pitch outs with that cutter, especially against some righties.”

Harrison agreed he could use the cutter earlier in the count and said he’s throwing it a little harder this spring, around 91 mph, which should make it look more like the fastball. “I was really, really liking how it felt today,” he said.

Veteran catcher Tom Murphy, making his Giants debut, said he thinks Harrison could throw the pitch with a little less velocity and get a little more sweep to it, but the main thing, he said, will be for Harrison to be able to locate it well. He called Harrison’s fastball “explosive” and added, “I think the slider is a fantastic pitch, great shape, great movement. I think he has the ability to land it for strikes and also get outs with it.”

Harrison’s first Cactus League appearance featured only one ball put into play when Leody Taveras lined out to end the second. Harrison also hit Evan Carter on the forearm in the first inning, and Carter left the game; X-rays were negative.

So far, it’s a contrast from last spring, when Harrison gave up 10 hits, three walks and eight runs in 32⁄3 innings.

“I don’t even want to remember,” Harrison said with a laugh. “Off to a great start — it feels good to get the jitters out early and, I know they don’t look at (spring) results too much, but deep down, you always want good results.”

Harrison is not the player in his family making the most news lately. His younger brother, Bear, has roared off to a sensationa­l start as a freshman at St. Mary’s, with eight hits, including four homers, in his first 15 at-bats. “He’s still the favorite child,” Kyle Harrison said. “He’s tearing it up out there.”

Harrison is likely to feature more prominentl­y in the Giants’ plans this season than the man who got the biggest round of applause Sunday. Pablo Sandoval, 37 and a three-time champion with the Giants, is back and while he is a longshot to make the team, he’s in good shape and the switch-hitter is batting only left-handed, something the Giants need.

Sandoval was the designated hitter Sunday and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, and he enjoyed catching up with his former manager, Bruce Bochy. They exchanged hugs, Sandoval congratula­ted Bochy on leading the Rangers to the title last year and the trimmed down Sandoval said Bochy told him, “You look good!”

Sandoval’s teammates enjoyed the warm welcome Sandoval got, too. “Fully deserved, absolutely” Murphy said. “The guy is a legend and an A-plus human being.”

In a slow day offensivel­y for both teams, the Giants got hits from LaMonte Wade Jr., David Villar and Luis Matos, who doubled. Tyler Fitzgerald, playing short Sunday, walked twice and stole a base. Two of the team’s regular relievers, Tyler Rogers and Ryan Walker, worked scoreless innings, with Walker looking especially sharp.

 ?? Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press ?? Left-hander Kyle Harrison has exhibited signs of being a strikeout pitcher, but he needs to pitch longer in games.
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press Left-hander Kyle Harrison has exhibited signs of being a strikeout pitcher, but he needs to pitch longer in games.

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