Cubs’ Mills will make first major-league start vs. Reds

CHICAGO — With the Chicago Cubs just starting a busy stretch during which they will play 23 games in 23 days, finding a way to remain fresh may seem tougher than normal.

How well Chicago’s starting pitching holds up over the remainder of the regular season may play a major role in determining whether the Cubs can capture their third straight National League Central Division title.

With Yu Darvish out for the season and Mike Montgomery sidelined with a shoulder injury, the last thing the Cubs needed was for their starting rotation to take another hit. But the injury bug continued to bite the Cubs on Thursday when Tyler Chatwood, who had been relegated to the bullpen after spending most of the season as a starter, was placed on the disabled list with hip tightness. The Cubs recalled right-hander Dillon Maples from Triple-A Iowa.

The starter shortfall also forced the Cubs to call up Alec Mills, who will make his first major league start on Friday at Wrigley Field against the Cincinnati Reds. Mills (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is 5-12 with a 4.84 ERA in 23 starts this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Mills made an appearance for the Cubs earlier this season when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief and struck out two July 27 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

While the Cubs’ pitching has stood up well during Chicago’s recent offensive struggles, manager Joe Maddon continued to keep newly acquired Daniel Murphy at the top of his lineup. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who had thrived in the lead-off spot, has settled back into his normal No. 3 spot and homered for a third straight game and drove in three runs as the Cubs knocked off the Reds 7-1 in Thursday night’s series opener behind a complete-game effort from Cole Hamels.

The addition of Murphy, who went 2-for-5 and scored a run in Thursday’s win, could be big for the Cubs down the stretch. Murphy is a career .413 hitter in 109 at-bats at Wrigley Field, where he played his first game as a member of the Cubs on Wednesday. With shortstop Addison Russell sidelined with an injury, Murphy’s addition bolsters a lineup that general manager Jed Hoyer believes is built to win.

“We’ve tried to augment that group as much as we can during the course of the season,” Hoyer told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune. “But this group is very capable of winning. We need to start playing better, more consistent baseball.”

The Reds will head into Friday’s game expecting to send Matt Harvey to the mound despite reports that the veteran right-hander had been claimed off waivers by an unknown team Wednesday. A team has 48 hours to either trade him or pull him off of waivers from the time he is chosen. The Reds’ official website said that would force team officials to decide what to do with Harvey before Friday’s matinee.

Harvey is 6-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 17 starts with the Reds this season after he was acquired from the New York Mets. Harvey is 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs, and is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts against Chicago this season. Whether he makes another start against Chicago — at least as a member of the Reds — remains up in the air.

“Obviously, if a trade is worked out, he won’t (pitch),” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman told reporters Thursday. “But we’re planning on having him start.”