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

BALTIMORE — Despite right-hander John Lackey’s significant struggles, the Cubs haven’t considered moving him out of the rotation as they mull changes to their starting staff.

‘‘We’re not there yet,’’ manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. ‘‘I believe he’s going to have a really good second half.’’

Lackey’s first half was his worst since he was 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 in the next week with left-hander Jose Quintana in the fold and right-hander Kyle Hendricks (finger) expected back from the disabled list. Lackey has allowed the most home runs (24) in the National League.

But move him to the bullpen? Who would deliver that news?

Lackey

‘‘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, at times has pitched through an achy right shoulder and a case of plantar fasciitis in his right foot that has him on the DL now. He is expected to return to the rotation Tuesday against the Braves in Atlanta.

Maddon attributed some of Lackey’s problems to the foot injury.

‘‘Watching him right now, he looks very focused,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I think the [All-Star] 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. 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 at 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.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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