‘Not ready’: Cubs’ Caleb Kilian shows growing pains in spot start vs. Marlins

Kilian was charged with seven runs, 10 hits and two walks in 3 ⅓ innings.

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Caleb Kilian made his first major-league start of the season Saturday against the Marlins.

Caleb Kilian made his first major-league start of the season Saturday against the Marlins.


MIAMI — Boos rained down on Cubs rookie right-hander Caleb Kilian from the stands as Jorge Soler ducked out of the way of a slider that got away. Kilian already had hit two batters and, though the second was questionable, had come close to hitting two others in the first inning Saturday.

‘‘Obviously, it didn’t go how I wanted it to,’’ Kilian said after the Cubs’ 7-6 loss to the Marlins.

Kilian improved as his start progressed, but a first inning full of command issues sunk his first major-league start of the season and the fourth of his career. He was charged with seven runs, 10 hits and two walks in 3⅓ innings.

When asked what he took from the outing, manager David Ross said: ‘‘That he’s not ready. Still got learning to do. Still needs some seasoning.’’

Kilian had known all week, as the Cubs adjusted his side work to line him up for the start Saturday, that he would be joining the big-league team from Triple-A Iowa.

‘‘I might have overthought it a little bit,’’ Kilian said. ‘‘The pitch planning and stuff, I haven’t really done as much as I tried to do today. So I probably had a little too much going on in my head, rather than just going out there and competing with my strengths. So that’s something I can also learn from.’’

Marlins leadoff hitter Jazz Chisholm Jr. bunted to the third-base side to kick off the first. Kilian fielded it and threw to first, and the umpire called Chisholm out. But a review overturned the call.

Kilian then struck out Soler. But the command issues that plagued the inning started to show. The two balls he threw to Soler were up and in, way out of the strike zone.

‘‘I’ve been working on being quick down the mound,’’ Kilian said. ‘‘And I think with the adrenaline of just being in the big leagues, I was a little too quick. My arm didn’t quite catch up. So I was just spraying it around the first inning.’’

He gave up a single to Luis Arraez on a line drive that tipped off the end of a leaping Nico Hoerner’s glove, then hit Yuli Gurriel. That loaded the bases for Jesus Sanchez, who hit a ground-rule double that bounced over the left-field wall with two outs to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead.

‘‘Going in, you have a specific plan, obviously,’’ catcher Tucker Barnhart said. ‘‘‘And then when things are going sideways, you try to weather the storm as much as you can; you try a little bit of everything. And so it’s just damage control at the ultimate level.’’

Kilian gave up another RBI hit, issued two walks and was charged with another hit-by-pitch — Ross argued unsuccessfully that the ball had missed Chisholm’s back foot — before inducing a grounder from Soler to end the inning. He has faced 11 batters, surrendered five runs and thrown 40 pitches.

In the dugout, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy helped Kilian identify that he was rushing down the mound. He made the adjustment going into the second.

‘‘And I was able to command the ball better and at least compete out there,’’ Kilian said.

In the next 2⅓ innings, Kilian allowed six more hits but didn’t issue any more walks or hit any more batters.

‘‘It’s huge,’’ Kilian said. ‘‘Because now there’s something that I can take away, something to learn from. I didn’t just go out there and completely suck. At least I turned it around a little bit.’’

Said Barnhart: ‘‘I think he did a lot of really good things. He kept us in the game. We were able to be in a position where we could win the game in the ninth. And that’s really all you can ask for.’’

The offense mounted a comeback that fell just short. A sixth-inning rally was curtailed when Marlins left fielder Bryan De La Cruz caught Eric Hosmer between second and third while tagging up on a sacrifice fly by Hoerner. The Cubs tacked on two runs in the eighth but stranded two runners in scoring position in the inning.

‘‘A lot of quality at-bats all the way around,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Wasn’t our cleanest game, but these guys fought really hard, and I’m proud of that.’’

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