Cincinnati Reds get first look at Chicago Cubs on Friday

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Cincinnati Reds get first look at Chicago Cubs on Friday

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The Cubs celebrate Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter against the Reds on Thursday, April 21, 2016, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

The last time the Chicago Cubs played a game in Cincinnati as the defending World Series champions was Sept. 14, 1909.

William Howard Taft was President. The North Pole was discovered that year. The Reds were playing games at the Palace of the Fans, which seated 6,000.

One hundred and eight years later, the Cubs are the reigning champions again, and they are a team the Reds have to fare better against if they’re going to remain a contender in the National League Central Division. The teams start a three-game series Friday at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds were 4-15 against the Cubs last season and 6-13 in 2015.

“We’d like to be a player in this division,” Reds manager Bryan Price said Thursday. “In order to do that, you have to play well against everybody in your division. You can’t have some team run roughshod over you over the course of 18 or 19 games. If it’s the Cubs or the Cardinals or the Pirates or the Brewers, we have to be able to compete within the division. I think we’re a different team in that we have a much better structured bullpen than we did at this point last year. They really beat us up, both in the rotation and in the bullpen last year.”

The Cubs are 8-7. They won two of three games at home against the Milwaukee Brewers after being swept last weekend by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jon Lester (0-0, 1.00 ERA), Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.89) and John Lackey (1-2, 4.00) will start against the Reds.

Mesoraco update: Devin Mesoraco could return to the Reds for a road game in St. Louis on April 28. He has appeared in eight games in a rehab assignment for Double-A Pensacola (Fla.).

“We’re just going to move forward with his rehab and take advantage of the next several days we have in Pensacola,” Price said. “We’ll get through the weekend and reevaluate. He’s ready to come out now and play. We want him to feel good behind the plate and at the plate.”

Mesoraco has appeared in a total of 39 games the last two seasons, both of which were cut short by injuries. In 2014, his last full season, he hit .273 with 25 home runs and made the all-star team.

“Devin will do anything that we need for him to do,” Price said. “That’s the one thing he made very clear. He feels he’s durable enough. He knows he’s not in 2014 form. That can’t be the expectation after two years off.”

Friday’s game: Tim Adleman (0-0, 2.25) will start the 7:10 p.m. Friday game against the Cubs. He has made one appearance in relief this season. He allowed one earned run in four innings Sunday against the Brewers.

Last season, Adleman made his big-league debut. He was 4-4 with a 4.00 ERA in 13 starts.

Cody Reed (1-0, 0.00) starts the 1:10 p.m. Saturday game. Bronson Arroyo (1-2, 8.40) stats the 1:10 p.m. Sunday game.

Career milestone: Joey Votto made his 1,256th career appearance at first base Thursday. He moved past Ted Kluszewski (1947-1957) to become the all-time Reds leader in games played at first.

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