SAN FRANCISCO – So when will left-hander Kyle Harrison, the San Francisco Giants’ top pitching prospect, be promoted to the big leagues for the first time?
Simply put, whenever the Giants really need him, according to manager Gabe Kapler.
Maybe that time is approaching.
The Giants, in the middle of a crowded National League playoff race, have a day off Thursday but are about to embark on another treacherous part of their schedule with six games against the Atlanta Braves, MLB’s best team, and three against the Philadelphia Phillies, who lead the National League Wild card race.
It’s part of a stretch that sees the Giants play 18 games in 19 days up until Sept. 6.
“I think whenever you’re talking about graduating a prospect to the major leagues, you consider everything,” Kapler said before Wednesday’s series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays at Oracle Park. “And oftentimes, and when you’re in the middle of August and you’re in a playoff position, you have to think about what helps the team win more than anything else.
“It’s not that you don’t focus on the development of the players and try to give them as much experience as possible or give them a soft landing, but I think you’re first and foremost evaluating the needs of the major league team.
“In this particular case, I think you’re evaluating the needs of the major league team.”
Harrison had a solid outing in Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. Although he allowed six hits and three earned runs over four innings, Harrison did not issue any walks and finished with seven strikeouts in what became an 18-8 loss by the River Cats loss to visiting Tacoma. In 9 1/3 innings over his last three appearances this month, Harrison has 13 strikeouts and four walks to go with four earned runs allowed.
“We probably pay less attention — as we’re thinking about Kyle’s process and his progress — about how many runs he gave up and more about whether he is attacking the strike zone because he’s a guy that has the capability to miss bats in the zone,” Kapler said. “He knows that that’s something that he has that not all pitchers have, so we’re encouraging him to do that and it looked like that’s a lot of what was going on last night.”
Barring an injury, a move to promote Harrison would involve some decision-making since the De La Salle High product is not on the 40-man roster. Still, San Francisco entered Wednesday nine games out of first place in the NL West and a mere 2.5 games from being out of a wild card spot altogether.
Perhaps that time when the Giants need a top prospect like Harrison is rapidly approaching, even with the challenging schedule ahead.
“There are not all that many soft landings in our schedule,” Kapler said. “We’re playing one of the best teams in baseball (in Tampa Bay), we just played one of the best teams in baseball (in Texas), we’re gonna go play one of the best teams in baseball (in Atlanta) and then after that we’re gonna play one of the best teams in baseball (in Philadelphia). So, for anybody, there’s no real easy spot.”
Yastrzemski’s frustration: Even though he’s dealing with an unpredictable and recurring hamstring injury, Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski is confident he’ll be able to return this season.
Yastrzemski appeared to be close to a return late last week but had a setback as he ran the bases over the weekend and has been shut down indefinitely. Yastrzemski, who turns 33 next week, has played in just 77 games this season with his last appearance coming on July 30.
“I was hoping that it was just some minor soreness, but it’s a little more than that,” Yastrzemski said. “Unfortunately, it’s just another setback, so hopefully we’ll get it right and I’ll be ready to go soon.
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“It’s the first time I’ve ever dealt with a hamstring, so it was pretty foreign territory for me. So just kind of trying to take it all in and learn as much as I can, so that way, this is the only time I ever have to deal with it.”
Yastrzemski, hitting .233 with 11 home runs and a .753 OPS, said he doesn’t have a timeline for when he might be able to return, but is optimistic he’ll be back at some point over the next six weeks.
“It’s been the goal for a while,” Yastrzemski said, “it just hasn’t panned out yet.”