Cubs send Caleb Kilian back to Iowa for a few tweaks

Caleb Kilian’s return ticket to Triple-A Iowa included some of the improvements he needs to make in the wake of his outing Saturday.

Manager David Ross allowed Kilian, who gave up three runs in five innings in a 7-4 loss to the rival Cardinals in his ballyhooed major-league debut, to assess his start and identify ways he could get better.

“There are some things I agreed with,”Ross said Sunday, adding that Cubs president Jed Hoyer and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy were involved in the conversation. “[Kilian] has an awareness about where he wants to continue to grow and get better, a lot of baseball conversation. He was great. He understands he’s going to be a major-league pitcher for a long time and help us win.”

With two days off this week, there was no need for a fifth starter.

Kilian retired the first nine batters before the Cardinals broke through on a wild pitch and a two-run double by Brendan Donovan in the fourth inning, so the quick assumption would be that Kilian would need to make a few adjustments.

But Ross declined to disclose details of the areas Kilian needs to improve on.

“He knows it,” Ross said. “Casting judgment publicly on minor things doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either.”

Two weeks before Kilian’s debut, Hottovy said he was working on deploying his curve more as a strikeout pitch. So, for now, Kilian will look to improve on deception and his 2-0 record and 2.06 ERA at Iowa.

Mouthful of pain

Infielder Jonathan Villar is expected to return Tuesday from the 10-day injured list after suffering what he described as “one of the most frustrating injuries I’ve ever had.”

Villar had surgery to repair teeth and gum damage after a stretching band connected to a tube snapped and hit him in the mouth.

“I was just training before the game, and it really happened,” said Villar, who showed no signs of swelling.

The injury didn’t prevent Villar from staying in baseball shape, and Ross concurred that he likely will be activated in Baltimore.

Seiya in Baltimore

Right fielder Seiya Suzuki, who also is eligible to return for the Baltimore series, will go through an array of baseball activities before the game Tuesday.

“It hasn’t been that long,” Ross said of Suzuki, who hasn’t played since May 26 because of a sprained left ring finger.

Ross credited the Cubs’ indoor pitching machines for helping to maintain Suzuki’s timing, pointing to Nico Hoerner’s 8-for-18 start since returning from the IL as proof.

Tips from Smiling Jon

Left-hander Justin Steele heeded the advice of former Cubs standout Jon Lester, who sent a text to Ross emphasizing that Steele should try to establish his four-seam fastball in the low and inside quadrant of the strike zone to right-handed hitters.

“It would open up everything else,” Steele said after allowing two runs in seven innings.

Ross said Lester stressed, in another text, that he “didn’t want to be pitching coach.”

Albert update

Cardinals star Albert Pujols moved into a tie with Cal Ripken Jr. for eighth place after playing in his 3,001st game. Pujols hit a single in the fourth inning to move into a tie with Paul Molitor for ninth place with 3,319 hits.

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