After clambering for Cubs top pitching prospect Caleb Kilian’s debut, Cubs fans should be seeing a lot more of him.
Kilian made his second major-league start on Wednesday, in the Cubs’ 19-5 loss to the Padres. He allowed five runs in four innings as the Cubs extended their season-high losing streak to nine. Still, depending on how injuries to other Cubs starters play out, Kilian is a natural choice to keep chipping in.
None of the Cubs’ injured starters are facing an imminent return. Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) likely will be the first to rejoin the rotation, and he hasn’t, as Cubs manager David Ross put it, “even picked up a ball yet.”
Stroman will get a couple more days of rest, Ross said, before starting to play catch. Until the right-hander throws his first bullpen, however, it will be hard for the Cubs to gauge his timeline. He isn’t eligible to be activated until at least next week.
Veteran lefty Wade Miley (left shoulder strain) was prescribed rest on Monday. Southpaw Drew Smyly (right oblique strain) is progressing in his throwing program but working back from a more finicky injury.
The Cubs’ pitching shortage has shown up in the box score in the form of lopsided losses like Wednesday’s. Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel made his third relief appearance of the season on Wednesday, illustrating just how bleak this losing streak has been.
“It’s definitely been trying,” Ross said of the Cubs’ surge of injuries, “but also, again in that same breath, you get opportunities to see other guys and have them step up and get to see what maybe the future looks like.”
Other guys like Kilian.
The Cubs have consistently said that they want to continue developing players at the major-league level. Kilian, whether he sticks on the major-league roster now or later, will be a test of that part of the Cubs’ pitching infrastructure.
Said Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy “Getting to spend time with him, talk to him in between outings and spend four days with him to see how his routine is, all those little things – I think we’re even more excited than just watching the game [about] getting to have that one-on-one time with him as as the season goes on.”
Kilian’s second start wasn’t nearly as crisp as his first. In his major-league debut, Kilian retired the first nine Cardinals batters he faced in order, only allowing runs his second time though the lineup.
On Wednesday, Kilian struggled with fastball command from the beginning. He walked five batters in all, two in the first inning. And he gave up five hits, including a pair of doubles to Jake Cronenworth.
As Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner likes to say, development “is not always linear.”
Kilian still hasn’t deployed his full arsenal at the major-league level. He worked over the winter and spring on a new changeup, which he hasn’t debuted in two starts, according to Statcast.
“But in the bullpen, it had pretty good action,” said P.J. Higgins, who caught Kilian in his debut.
On Wednesday, likely as a result of falling behind in counts, Kilian didn’t use his secondary pitches much at all. Statcast recorded 11 cutters and five curveballs.
It’s also dangerous to take too much from a two-game sample size.
“I think he’s got a good understanding of how this stuff plays here,” Hottovy said Wednesday afternoon, “and then, what are the things that we want to continue to work on.”