Braves rookie Fried makes first start vs. Cubs

CHICAGO — Rookie left-hander Max Fried has already navigated four relief appearances in his brief time in the major leagues.

Now the Atlanta Braves will see how the 23-year-old prospect fares in his first big league start against the Chicago Cubs in Sunday’s series finale at Wrigley Field.

“With the time he had here previously there won’t be big culture shock or anything like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “It’s got to be exciting for anybody to come to Wrigley Field and make their first start. It’s going to be exciting for a kid like that to be able to pitch here.”

Fried was called up Friday from Triple-A Gwinnett and offers a break to right-hander R.A. Dickey, who would have worked Sunday on three days’ rest.

In his first Braves stint from Aug. 4-20, Fried worked 6 2/3 innings in relief, allowing four runs on seven hits while walking six and striking out four. On Aug. 16 against Colorado he gave up three runs on three hits over 2 2/3 innings. It leaves him with an 0-0 record and a 5.40 ERA.

Fried spent much of the season at Double-A Mississippi where he posted a 2-11 mark and 5.92 ERA in 19 games. At Gwinnett he was 0-0 in two starts covering six innings.

“If you would have talked to me in May or June, when everything was going on, I probably would have told you you’re crazy if this was going to happen,” Fried told reporters. “But I’m really happy and excited to be here and really just can’t wait to get this start in.”

The Cubs go with left-hander Mike Montgomery (5-6, 3.29 ERA), now part of an expanded starting rotation. He’ll make his 11th start of the season and fifth at home.

In his last start on Aug. 28 against the Pirates he worked a season-high seven innings, allowing just a solo home run to lead off the eighth.

Montgomery, who has worked most of the season out of the bullpen, was inserted in the starting rotation when left-hander Jon Lester went on the disabled list on Aug. 18.

“I want to start,” said Montgomery, now 2-0 in his last two starts. “But I like winning. Being on a team that’s winning trumps pretty much anything else. And you’ve got to put your ego aside in that case in order to be part of it.

“You’ve got to pitch well. The opportunities come after that.”

His only career appearance against the Braves came this season, when he started and allowed just two hits and one run over six innings to pick up the victory.

After 135 games last year the Cubs were 87-48, 12 wins better than the current team.

But this year’s edition appears to be picking up steam as the calendar moves through September and Chicago (75-60) starts to solidify its hold atop the NL Central.

The Cubs have now won a season-high-tying six straight games and nine consecutive home wins, and they are 32-15 since the All-Star break.

Second-place Milwaukee, which led the Cubs by 5 1/2 games at the break, is now 4 1/2 games in back of Chicago. Third-place St. Louis had slipped seven games back.