It was easy to see Saturday why the Cubs are high on Caleb Kilian’s potential as a key piece of the “next great Cubs team.” But for now, he’s going to continue his work in the minor leagues.
The Cubs optioned Kilian back to Triple-A Iowa after his impressive big-league debut Saturday against the Cardinals.
Kilian returning to Iowa after Saturday seemed like the most likely scenario. The Cubs called him up amid a grueling stretch of 11 games in nine days on their schedule.
They also technically don’t need a fifth starter until June 14, and optioning Kilian, their top pitching prospect, allows him to maintain a normal rotation schedule.
Ross and Kilian assessed the outing after Saturday’s game, a conversation that also included pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and team president Jed Hoyer. Kilian discussed some areas he can improve.
“There's some things that I agreed with,” Ross said. “The fact that he just had such an awareness about where he wants to continue to grow and get better.
“We just had a lot of baseball conversation. It was great. I think he understands he's going to be a major league pitcher for a really long time and help us win.”
Kilian had a perfect game through three innings and allowed three runs and three hits in five innings on the night. St. Louis scored all its runs in the fourth, when Kilian threw 30 pitches.
He bounced back in the fifth to finish strong.
It was the most anticipated big-league debut by a Cubs starting pitcher in recent memory, and Kilian is likely to rejoin the Cubs at some point this summer.
“Just about go down and continue to work on the things that you identified and that we saw,” Ross said of the Cubs' message to Kilian after the option. “I think it's always about trying to get better.
“I think he wants to grow, and he wants to be the best he possibly can. Just a lot of back and forth on feedback, to be honest.”