The Rundown: Lackey Not Moving to Pen, Quintana Won’t Face Sox, Hendricks Returns

Outside of potentially setting records for home runs allowed, John Lackey isn’t having a very memorable season. In fact, his performance has led to more than one person calling for him to be removed from the rotation.

But even before he went out and held the Braves to a single run — from a homer, of course — over five innings, his manager cast a vote of confidence in the beleaguered starter.

“[Moving Lackey to the bullpen has] not been discussed at all,” Joe Maddon told 670 The Score’s Matt Spiegel and Barry Rozner Tuesday. “I have a lot of faith in John Lackey. Even if the start tonight wasn’t exactly what you’re looking for, this guy, the word is ‘compete.’

“I think that word is not utilized enough anymore in sports in general. Everything is always reduced to numbers and math and streaks and whatever. I like the word ‘compete’ a lot. I think John Lackey competes as well as anyone in the big leagues still to today. That’s what I look for with John.”

Of course, there’s another way to take Lackey out of the rotation without moving him to the pen. And that is via DFA, though that could leave the messenger DOA. Which reminds me, don’t offer a take like this:

Lose the message in translation. Have teammate Koji Uehara give him the news in Japanese. The obvious risk here is that Lackey, a native Texan, might be fluent in several Asian languages. And that he might be a seventh-degree black belt in karate.

I understand how satire works and I’ve made some failed attempts at it in the past. I’m also an expert practitioner of awful dad jokes. But that little bit above was…yeah.

After reading that, the prospect of watching Lackey pitch seems at least a little less bad. Maybe. Heck, he actually looked pretty decent after a rough early frame. And even if you’re still put off by the idea of the big Texan continuing to rack up innings, you’re just going to have to get used to it.

“It ain’t happening, Lackey responded when asked after the game about the possibility of moving to the bullpen. “There’s two places for me to be, starting or at home.”

Though this declaration was made in typical Lackey fashion, with a wry smile and more than a little sarcasm, there was plenty of truth to his words. And when I hear or read them, I don’t see a measure of defiance or self-importance. I see a guy who knows his role and understands that it will eventually be time to take a step back.

And if he can hold down the back end of the rotation once a week or so, that time won’t come until October.

Rotation shuffled

Had the rotation stayed on trend, we’d see Jose Quintana facing the Cardinals at Wrigley on Saturday and then the White Sox on the South Side the following Thursday. But with an off-day this Thursday, Maddon has chosen to flip Quintana and Jon Lester.

That means the former getting a Sunday start before opening the series against the Brewers next Friday.

As cool as it would have been to see Quintana pitching in his old home park against his former team, Maddon has to think his new stud pitcher is best deployed against more stout competition. The shuffle also gives the Cubs a little more time to make the requisite personnel decisions and allows them to essentially work with a six-man rotation, with Mike Montgomery’s Wednesday start kicking it off.

Hendricks joins Cubs in Atlanta

Kyle Hendricks looked good enough in his last outing with the Tennessee Smokies that it was easy to assume he was ready to return to the active roster. Those assumptions were validated when the pitcher showed up to the visitors’ clubhouse at SunTrust Park.

“I felt right out there facing hitters, and felt mechanically right,” Hendricks said about his recent AA rehab start. “My rhythm felt good, and I executed many more pitches. Now I feel confident and ready to go.”

With Jake Arrieta, Lester, and Quintana set for this weekend, Hendricks is probably in line to get the ball Monday when the Cubs face the Sox at Wrigley. Maddon didn’t commit to a date for Hendricks’ return to the rotation, but said that last year’s NL ERA champ would throw at least one more bullpen session before being activated.

More news and notes

  • The White pulled off kind of a big trade with the Yankees and know boast all 75 of the top prospects in baseball, or something like that.
  • Kato Kaelin, who’s apparently a huge Brewers fan, freaked out following their latest loss. If the glove don’t fit, you must quit being a fan.

  • JD Martinez, the best hitter available in a trade, went to the D-backs for what appears to be a very underwhelming package. That tells you something about the market for position players and also says that the Cubs might be able to score Alex Avila for less than some may have thought.
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