Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The day Caleb Killian waits for the 25-year-old Chicago Cubs pitcher to be the ‘best day of my life’

The day Caleb Killian waits for the 25-year-old Chicago Cubs pitcher to be the 'best day of my life'

You always remember your first time at Wrigley Field.

Walk through the gates and through the dark crowds. Looking at the green grass and ivy-covered bleacher walls as you enter the playground. Take a look at old-school scoreboards and watch as seats fill up during the hours before game time, with anticipation building up to the first pitch.

Caleb Killian experienced it all that Saturday afternoon – and then he got his chance to make his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 31,673 fans.

It was, he later said, “the greatest day of my life.”

Surely many more good days are ahead for this 25-year-old rookie. The Chicago Cubs’ top pitching prospect has experienced success at every level of his career, from high school to Texas Tech to the minor leagues.

But this was the day that would stop, because you only get one shot in your first game.

Pitching at Triple-A Iowa, Killian got a call from the Cubs on Thursday, which he called “the best birthday ever.” If it seems like he talks in exaggeration, put yourself in his shoes.

The Cubs, being the Cubs, wouldn’t let Killian make his debut, pretending it was a state secret that could be ruined by the media. But everyone knew, and by the time manager David Ross made the clear confirmation after Friday’s game, the news had already leaked to Twitter.

Killian had a hard time sleeping in her Chicago hotel room on Friday, wondering what was in store.

“When I was trying to sleep, I could hear my heartbeat,” she said with a laugh. “I’m glad I fell asleep and got some rest. Most were nerves (Friday).”

Killian arrived at Wrigley early Saturday to get comfortable with his new surroundings and met his teammates – some of whom he already knew – and coaches and clubhouse staff.

“Best ballpark ever,” he said. “What a place to debut.”

Killian’s parents, aunts, and friends got enough notice to move to Chicago. After receiving his first round of applause from bleacher fans while stretching in the outfield, he came to the mound to sing “The Outsiders:” by Eric Church.

“Back to the wall / A band of brothers / Together, alone, outsiders.”

Killian began by dismissing Tommy Edman on three pitches, ending at-bat with a quick 96 mph ball. He fanned Nolan Gorman on the 1-2 curve, then broke Paul Goldschmidt’s bat while the Cardinals put the star in the groundout on short.

“It helped build some confidence,” Killian said, trying not to “let this moment get to me.”

He needed only 20 pitches in two innings to retire the first six hitters. And then he booked a full third with strikeouts from Yadier Molina and Edmundo Sosa.

But then came the fourth. The first at-bat of the innings briefly contained a ball that hit the ground in the right field bleachers, forcing Rafael Ortega to throw it back and resume play.

Killian proceeds to walk Edman on four pitches, after a fly is dropped by Gorman, Goldschmid sings rapidly in the middle, allowing Killian to perform a dance to avoid smoking. A walk from Nolan Arenado loaded the base, and a breaking ball that bounced into the dirt brought first catcher PJ Higgins into the first run. Brendan Donovan’s double to left center brought the other runners on, and suddenly the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead.

“Two strikes, it hurts,” said Killian. “I should get better than this, but it happens. Can’t take it back.”

When the innings ended after Harrison Bader was caught stealing a second time, Killian had thrown 30 pitches into the frame. The Cubs put him down 80 pitches in total, one of his nine minor-league starts, but Ross sent Killian back for fifth. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovi told him to rest and use his legs to go downhill on his delivery – and Killian returned to his starting form. He dropped two out, infield hits to Sosa before hitting Edman to end his night.

“Just giving him a reset, right?” Ross calls Kilian out for fifth. “The wheels didn’t fall. He’s a long start and he’s going to play an innings or two like this from time to time. Just get him back on that horse. He handled it really well, outside Went and threw a lot of strikes.”

It was not Rembrandt. The opening of any five innings cannot be considered a masterpiece. But it was a start, and Ross was pleased that Killian showed what he was doing in his key opening innings and his ability to move from a rocky fourth when he lost command.

Ross said, “mixed his pitches well, that was clearly a rough innings.” “But very clean. It’s nice to see someone for the first time. I think they handled the moment very well. The bees fly out. Their fastballs feel real, their cutters, mixed and matched to their pitches.” . He did a good job.”

Ross had tried to downplay the importance of Kylian’s debut, perhaps avoiding the kind of media and fan scrutiny that Chris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and the rest of the Cubs’ chances from 2015–16 ended up with early in his career. Gone. He didn’t want Killian to be considered the “savior” of this rebuilding or to pressure the child into performing at a higher level every time.

But don’t make any mistake. It’s a big deal for the Cubs, and especially for President Jed Hoyer, who acquired Killian from the San Francisco Giants last July, sending one of the team’s most popular players in the past three decades packing. . Just as Bryant’s arrival in 2015 signaled the unofficial start of the new Cubs era under Theo Epstein, Killian’s call-up means Hoyer’s reign is now in full swing.

It will be some time before the rest of the top prospects acquired from the sell-off in the summer of 2021 will be in the larger companies as most were at lower levels at the time of trades. Fair or not, Killian would be the Cubs’ performance player to convince fans, which made the right call to deal with the stars of his championship team instead of signing him an extension.

“I think people come out here to see the Cubs,” said Killian, easing the pressure of what he saw as the centerpiece of the rebuild.

The Cubs lost 10 innings in a game with few twists and turns, with the Cardinals missing their chance to score a go-forward run when Sousa missed the third while scoring a base, forcing them to retreat . It will be a footnote to the story, which Killian tells about his first day at the majors from now on, pitching at an iconic ballpark on a quiet night in June.

“Best day ever,” he said. “It was the best day of my life. To be able to debut at Wrigley, Saturday night, it starts raining, tie the game in the ninth… I don’t think I could have asked for anything better.”

It was the first day of what the Cubs hoped would be a long and successful race for Killian and his new teammates.

Together, alone, outsiders.

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Nation World News Desk
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