How optioning Caleb Kilian affects the Cubs rotation

PITTSBURGH – The Cubs optioned top pitching prospect Caleb Kilian to Triple-A on Tuesday, after his second rough start in a row. But more went into the decision than a couple box scores.

“It’s twofold,” Cubs manager David Ross. “We need protection, and I think Caleb has got a few things we need him to work on and come back and be a better version of himself. We’ve seen some flashes but just get him back on track a little bit.”

Injuries to the big-league staff pushed both of Kilian’s call-ups ahead of schedule. And he’s been working to make his delivery more consistent.

“There’s a lot going on in my head, a lot I’m working on,” Kilian said after allowing five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Monday. “So maybe that’s part of it.”

As Ross said: “Working on things at this level and putting the pressure on yourself is not always the easiest spot to do it.”

As for the “protection,” Ross referenced, since MLB implemented the twice-delayed 13-pitcher roster limit, the Cubs have one less pitcher to help them weather short starts.

It’s too early to say who will take Kilian’s next turn in the rotation, Ross said.

The Cubs have options. They recalled right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. from Triple-A as the corresponding move Tuesday. But Alec Mills also threw 4 1/3 innings Monday, so unless the Cubs use him for length out of the bullpen in the next few days, he’d be on schedule to replace Kilian.

The Cubs have three starters on 15-day IL. Lefty Wade Miley (left shoulder strain) hasn’t started throwing yet. But southpaw Drew Smyly (right oblique) threw a bullpen Tuesday, and on Wednesday right-hander Marcus Stroman (right shoulder strain) is scheduled to throw his first bullpen since landing on the IL.

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