John Lackey to the pen? Who would even tell him? ‘My God,’ says Maddon

BALTIMORE – Despite John Lackey’s significant struggles in the first half, the Cubs have not considered moving him out of the rotation as they mull changes with the starting staff.

“We’re not there yet,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday as Jose Quintana made his Cubs debut against the Orioles after being acquired Thursday in a trade from the White Sox.

“I believe he’s going to have a really good second half,” Maddon added.

Lackey’s first half was his worst since pitching hurt for the Red Sox in 2011. His 5.20 ERA is the worst among the seven rotation options the Cubs have as they reset over the next week with Quintana in the fold and Kyle Hendricks (finger) expected back from the disabled list.

He has allowed more home runs (24) than anyone else in the National League.

Move him to the bullpen?

Who would even deliver the news?

“Just to try to take him out of a game, and then try to tell him something like that, my God,” Maddon said. “Exponentially worse.”

Lackey, 38, has pitched at times this year through shoulder aches and a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot that has him on the DL now. Because he went on the DL after his last scheduled start before the break and returns to start Tuesday in Atlanta, he won’t actually miss a turn in the rotation.

Maddon attributes some of Lackey’s problems to the foot.

“Watching him right now, he looks very focused,” Maddon said. “I think the break helped him a lot, combined with getting well. As long as he’s healthy, which I think he is right now, I think you’re going to see a better version than you saw in the first half.

“I think he likes this time of year; he likes being part of this kind of moment,” Maddon added. We pitched well [Saturday], and with Quintana pitching [Sunday], there’s all those little things going on that I think kind of push veteran players this time of year. And you have to be in a race to really push a guy that’s won three World Series.”

Lackey (5-9) is in the second year of a two-year deal with the Cubs.

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