Kilian struggles in 2nd start, but opportunity knocks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Caleb Kilian demonstrated his promise as the Cubs’ top pitching prospect with a solid performance in his big-league debut June 4.
His second career start, Wednesday against the Padres, was a different story, and Kilian pulled no punches when self-assessing his performance.
“Not very good,” Kilian said following the Cubs’ 19-5 blowout loss — hours after his night ended.
Kilian struggled with command in his four innings, walking five to go along with five Padres hits. He threw 30 of his 86 pitches in the first inning.
“Today just didn’t feel normal at all,” Kilian said. “Felt like I was way out of whack, not in sync.”
He only needed nine pitches to get through the third inning, but a 28-pitch, three-run fourth followed. All the damage came after he retired San Diego’s first two hitters of the frame.
“I think I was trying too hard,” Kilian said. “I was trying to aim it, trying to throw it to a certain spot instead of just being aggressive and let it rip.
“Once I started getting the tempo up and having an attack mindset, I was able to command a little better. But I just didn’t have my sharp stuff.”
The Cubs called up Kilian for Wednesday’s game amid a challenging time for their starting rotation. Three starters are on the injured list in Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly.
Stroman and Miley each went on the IL over the weekend.
“It’s definitely been trying,” manager David Ross said of all the pitching injuries. “But in that same breath, you get opportunities.
“You see other guys and have them step up and get to see what maybe the future looks like.”
Kilian appears in line to make at least one more start, perhaps two, in the short term, and likely a lot more down the line this summer.
Stroman hasn’t started throwing yet, and Miley is getting time to rest after his debilitating shoulder injury flared back up in his first outing off the IL on Friday.
Two starts is far too early to burden Kilian with expectations. He needs time to gain experience facing big-league hitters, which will only come with each additional start.
“Right now it’s just a matter of we need a starter,” Ross said before Wednesday’s game. “It’s just opportunity right now and he’ll get the opportunities when the rotation shakes out that way.”
“And at some point, he’ll be in [the rotation] every day as long as he continues to do what he’s been doing. He’s got a really bright future in our eyes.”
The Cubs are high on Kilian’s potential for a reason. How he fares this season will be important for them to see what they have in their most anticipated starting pitching prospect in recent memory.
Wednesday was one outing, and one he can use as a learning moment.
“God blesses us with success,” Kilian said. “He also blesses us with failures, so I’m going to do my best to just learn from this and grow.”
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