It came as a bit of a surprise when Javier Assad got the nod to make his MLB debut in the first half of Tuesday’s doubleheader, particularly after the report that Caleb Kilian would be recalled. Then David Ross left even more fans scratching their heads when he announced that journeyman Luke Farrell would take the mound Wednesday instead of either Kilian or Hayden Wesneski.
Kilian has experienced some growing pains this season as he adjusts to a new level of “stuff,” particularly velocity, and the Cubs appear to be pumping the brakes a bit on his timeline. Nothing major, mind you, but think of it like slowing down on the interstate when you see a cop posted up in the median.
“It’s important that he continues to develop,” VP of pitching Breslow recently told reporters. “It’s important that he kind of understands where he is on this path, and he understands why collectively we make the decisions that we do. If that leads him here, great. And if it doesn’t, that’s also fine.”
The first thing I thought of when I read this was Ivan Drago callously reacting to his beating of Apollo Creed by muttering, “If he dies, he dies.” Breslow comes across as incredibly dismissive here, but I don’t think he really meant it to be quite as harsh as it reads. It also helps to apply the context of time, as Breslow is explaining why Kilian isn’t up right now and might not be promoted again before the end of the season.
It could also be something of a motivational ploy in terms of how the Cubs are trying to get the most out of their top-level pitching prospects. I don’t mean like bulletin board material from the quote itself, but more the way the organization has chosen to prioritize promotions over the remainder of the year. If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s something they’re doing lightly or with an old-school sense of assholery.
The strides Breslow’s staff has made on the developmental front are undeniable and they’re operating with too much intelligence to simply piss someone off just for the hell of it. They know what makes their pitchers tick, even one who’s only been with the org for a little over a year. So perhaps Breslow is merely trying to fan Kilian’s competitive flame in a way.
Of course, it’s entirely likely that’s not the case at all and that the team simply believes Kilian isn’t ready to handle regular starts at the big league level yet. Now we just wait to see how he responds down the stretch and whether he can force Breslow and the rest of the front office to change their collective mind.