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Top prospect Caleb Kilian set to make much-anticipated debut for Cubs

4 weeks agoTony Andracki

Cubs fans will get a look at one of the organization’s top young pitchers Saturday at Wrigley Field.

The team is calling up top prospect Caleb Kilian to start Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals. 

Kilian — who just turned 25 on Thursday — has been dominant with Triple-A Iowa this season. He is 2-0 with a 2.06 ERA and 1.27 WHIP while striking out more than a batter an inning. He last pitched on May 25, throwing 72 pitches over 5 innings.

Cubs fans have been anticipating Kilian’s promotion for weeks now and it is arguably the most hype for a starting pitcher debut since Mark Prior in 2002.

“I got to interact with him a little bit; seems like a hard worker,” David Ross said. “Good makeup. Real chance to be an everyday big-league starter type of stuff. And continue to get better every day. I know he wants to grow, wants to learn. Pretty good energy about him. Got a nice fastball and been pitching really well.”

Ross and the Cubs don’t know how the future will play out and aren’t trying to classify this simply as a fill-in situation for Kilian. After all, Christopher Morel came up a few weeks ago when the team needed a position player and the rookie has played his way into a huge role on the 2022 team.

“You take it for what it’s worth,” Ross said. “Morel came up and got a chance to play a little bit. Good things happen to guys who take advantage of opportunity. I think that’s just a wait-and-see.”

The Cubs have been deliberately cautious with the young right-hander this year after he turned in the biggest workload of his career in 2021 with 100.1 minor league innings and then another 14 frames in the Arizona Fall League.

Current Cubs catcher P.J. Higgins played with Kilian in Iowa for much of 2022. Higgins actually has not caught Kilian in a game, but worked with the pitcher in Spring Training and had a front-row seat to several of the right-hander’s Triple-A starts.

“Caleb’s got the full package in pitches,” Higgins said. “He’s got a live fastball, he’s got a good 2-seam, curveball, cutter, changeup. He’s got a good mix to both sides of the plate. I think he’ll do really well.”

Saturday marks the Cubs’ second doubleheader of the week and before the homestand began, Jed Hoyer said Kilian was not in the mix to help the big-league pitching staff.

“I don’t think his development is done yet,” Hoyer said last Saturday. “There are more steps and there’s probably development that will happen when he gets up here. We’ve had good conversations with him about his timeline. He knows where things are and where things stand. We’re excited to have him.”

However, a lot has changed since then.

The Cubs had to place Wade Miley on the injured list Sunday and then Drew Smyly left Monday’s outing with an oblique injury. Smyly was added to the IL Wednesday and will likely be out until sometime in July.

That leaves the Cubs two arms short in the rotation.

Rookie Matt Swarmer was called up from Iowa earlier in the week and made his MLB debut in Game 1 Monday. He will start alongside Kilian for Saturday’s doubleheader.

The Cubs acquired Kilian from the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline last summer in exchange for Kris Bryant. He had a 2.42 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season, finishing the year with Double-A Tennessee.

Baseball America slotted Kilian the No. 100 prospect in the game in the outlet’s most recent rankings. He came in at No. 9 on Lance Brozdowski’s 2022 preseason Cubs prospect rankings.

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