Jackson to pen? Hoyer's not saying

Jed Hoyer said he's not even considering sending Edwin Jackson to the bullpen just yet. David Banks/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- What to do with struggling Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson, who fell to 0-5 on Sunday and owns a 6.37 ERA? That's one issue facing general manager Jed Hoyer.

Hoyer was asked before Monday's game against the Texas Rangers if he was worried about the right-hander, whose 1.62 WHIP (hits+walks per innings pitched) is ranked 99th in baseball out of 110 who qualify.

"Not concerned at all," Hoyer said. "He has a really long track record of success. Frankly, his consistency has been one of his biggest strengths over the course of his career. So not concerned, but at the same time he does need to pitch better and start helping his team and he knows that.

"I think he's frustrated with how he's pitched. It feels like it's always one inning in the game. It's been a number of good innings but he seems like when he gets in trouble he hasn't had any ability to get out of it. I think that will come. Luckily, he probably has 25 more starts this year, plenty of time to turn it around. But yeah, I think he's probably frustrated with how he's pitched and obviously we expected him to pitch better."

As Matt Garza readies for a return to the Cubs -- he could be about 10 days away -- someone has to go to the bullpen. Hoyer was asked if Jackson is a candidate.

"I don't even let myself think about having extra starters so there is no point in talking about it," Hoyer said. "We had these discussions in spring training when we had seven starters and it looked like (Travis) Wood and (Carlos) Villanueva would be in the bullpen so there's not really any point in talking about a hypothetical. It always seems to take care of itself and we're a ways away from having to deal with that kind of issue."

Analysis: Nothing Hoyer said was wrong, but if Villanueva or Scott Feldman were struggling at 0-5 there probably wouldn't even be a discussion about who goes to the bullpen -- and Hoyer probably wouldn't hesitate to lay out that plan. The fact that Jackson is signed four years at $52 million must play a part in the decision.

Most believe Feldman and Villanueva could be key trade pieces -- they're on cheaper one- and two-year deals -- later this season but they aren't nearly as valuable as middle or long relievers. Plus, if they're pitching well they're helping the Cubs, so for those reasons maybe it should be Jackson who goes to the bullpen. It would be a controversial move but it's not a permanent one anyway.

As soon as one of the other Cubs starters is traded, or begins to falter, Jackson can return. And what message does it send to the team if the one starter who is clearly struggling keeps his job while others are demoted strictly because of their contract situation? It wouldn't be the first time but that doesn't mean it's right.

"Four of the five guys have pitched incredibly well this year," Hoyer said when asked about the starting staff. "Edwin has struggled so far."

Hoyer may have just answered the question right there.