You ever see one of those sitcoms where a character spends an entire episode talking about some hero of theirs they might get to meet, and dilemmating over whether or not they even want to (because what if they freeze up and embarrass themselves?), and psyching themselves up to finally just do it, and they have a heartwarming moment with another character who tells them it’ll all be ok, and then they do meet the person and it’s even worse than anyone could have imagined? Someone on the St. Louis Cardinals must have been Caleb Kilian’s lifelong hero.
In June 2022, Kilian came up to pitch the second game of a doubleheader against the Cards, and it was a big moment for the Cubs. This guy was becoming the jewel of the Kris Bryant trade. He was going to help prove that the team has turned a corner in terms of pitching development. He was going to save us all. The best part is, he even started to do it. He set down the Cardinals in order the first time through, fanning four.
And then. And then. Kilian’s mechanics started spasming in the fourth inning. He walked two, allowed two hits, and loosed a wild pitch, leading to three runs. It would have been worse, but for a somewhat baffling stolen-base attempt. He got a little bit right again in the fifth inning, and his debut looked like it had largely gone ok. It had not gone ok. Kilian had stared fear in the face, and that fear climbed inside him, a dybbuk that is still operating him to this day.
When he’s right, Kilian has a five-pitch mix, with the ability to sink or cut his fastball and even elevate it in the zone on occasion. He has an aesthetically pleasing, old-fashioned curveball. When things are good, he can be a number-two starter. The question is: will things ever be good for him again?
It still feels a little like the twilight zone when speaking about the Cubs and their pitching developments. More so for the month of August, as one of the Cubs best prospects was hurt, and there were still tons of pitchers who had great months. But who had the greatest month of them all? Which of the Cubs vaunted pitching prospects claimed Starting Pitcher of the Month?
Before earning their series victory over Atlanta on Sunday, the Cubs made a notable roster move. To a pitching staff that got little reinforcement at the trade deadline and that needs some for the stretch run, they added a surprising but familiar name.