Smith gets starting nod as Reds take on Cubs

CHICAGO -- Josh Smith may not have much experience as a starting pitcher but at least the right-hander has been called on frequently between stints with Triple-A Louisville and the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds manager Bryan Price figures previous work will help when Smith makes his 30th appearance and first start of the season on Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs.

Price could have considered some others for a starting slot -- including candidates called up earlier this month from Triple-A Iowa.

"(But) we're so far removed from the Triple-A season," he said. "It ended on September 5. It is hard to ask guys to pitch when they haven't had activity for two weeks."

Smith (3-1, 4.97 ERA) will become the Reds' 15th different starting pitcher this season and he faces Cubs left-hander Jon Lester (17-4, 2.40 ERA) in the second in a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

Smith has had seven career starts -- all in 2005 -- as he went 0-4 with three no-decisions and a 6.82 ERA. He's 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three career appearances against Chicago.

As Smith is set to step in, the Reds could be poised to shut down a mainstay for the rest of the season.

Right-hander Homer Bailey reportedly continues to deal with a sore right biceps and skipped a scheduled bullpen late last week. He has struggled through parts of six starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.

"We have the right to shut him down, we have not made that decision yet," Price told reporters. "Until we do, you can anticipate that perhaps he may pitch again this year."

Reds right-hander Robert Stephenson (2-1, 4.97 ERA) works the series finale on Wednesday against Cubs right-hander John Lackey (9-8, 3.42 ERA).

Lester makes his 30th start of the season, hitting that milestone for the ninth straight season. In his last start on Sept. 14 at St. Louis, he worked eight scoreless innings in a 7-0 Cubs triumph while extending his winning streak to eight games.

He's 2-0 with a 3.02 ERA in seven career starts against Cincinnati and is 1-0 in three starts against the Reds this season.

"Jonny is on a good roll," Maddon told reporters earlier this month. "I've seen him like this in Boston. Right now as a Cub, this is the best I've seen his stuff consistently."

While the Reds are winding down and looking to 2017, the Cubs are concentrating on some unfinished business and the upcoming National League playoffs.

"We have a unique opportunity right now for the next two weeks," Maddon said on Monday. "The biggest thing we have left to do is to clinch the best record and that would ensure home field and hopefully secure 100 wins at some point.

Clinching the division crown so early has also given the Cubs some options to rest starters and the opportunity to meet and leisurely ponder their postseason roster.

Maddon said those discussions are starting this week.