What to expect from Caleb Kilian’s development as Cubs lose ninth straight

Making his second major-league start, Kilian allowed five runs in four innings Wednesday against the Padres.

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Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy talks with pitcher Caleb Kilian on the mound during the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy talks with pitcher Caleb Kilian on the mound during the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

After clamoring for top pitching prospect Caleb Kilian’s debut, Cubs fans should be seeing a lot more of him.

Kilian made his second major-league start 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 starting pitchers play out, Kilian is a natural choice to keep chipping in.

None of the Cubs’ injured starters is facing an imminent return. Right-hander Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) likely will be the first to rejoin the rotation, and he hasn’t, as 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 he throws his first bullpen session, however, it will be hard for the Cubs to gauge his timeline. He isn’t eligible to be activated until at least next week.

Left-hander Wade Miley (strained left shoulder) was prescribed rest on Monday. Lefty Drew Smyly (strained right oblique) 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. First baseman Frank Schwindel made his third relief appearance of the season.

“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 such as Kilian.

The Cubs have 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 pitching infrastructure.

“Getting to spend time with him,’’ pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said, ‘‘talk to him 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 the season goes on.”

Kilian’s second start wasn’t nearly as crisp as his first. In his debut, Kilian retired the first nine Cardinals he faced, only allowing runs his second time through the lineup. Against San Diego, Kilian struggled with fastball command from the beginning. He walked five batters, two in the first inning. And he allowed five hits, including two 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.

“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 his stuff plays here,” Hottovy said Wednesday afternoon, “and then, what are the things that we want to continue to work on.”

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