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Dodgers starting lineup vs. Diamondbacks: AJ Pollock to play against former team

AJ Pollock.
Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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AJ Pollock will return to the Dodgers’ lineup for Thursday’s series opener at the Arizona Diamondbacks, looking to continue his hot start to the season against his former team.

Pollock, who will play left field on Thursday at Chase Field, hit a team-best .500 over the first week of the season, going six for 12 with two doubles and two walks. He recorded at least one hit in each of his first four games.

The 32-year-old would have been forgiven for a sluggish open to 2020. Soon after the MLB season was suspended in March, his wife Kate gave birth to daughter Maddi three months premature. Maddi spent most of the summer in a hospital near their Arizona home.

Pollock then missed the start of the Dodgers’ training camp this month after testing positive for COVID-19 before leaving the team last Saturday to help his wife take his daughter home for the first time.

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“It was amazing, it was chaos,” Pollock said. “I had to get it done pretty quick because I knew I wanted to get back [to the team]. But it was awesome. We’ve been waiting for this day for 130 days, getting her home, having all her firsts out of the way. She’s been staring at the ceiling of a hospital for four months. So just seeing the ceiling in our house was overwhelming.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes MLB went a bit too far in issuing an eight-game suspension to reliever Joe Kelly for his actions against the Astros.

Pollock missed only one game — he watched the Dodgers’ loss to the Giants last Saturday from his couch with his newborn in his arms — before returning to the lineup Sunday.

“It got me to say, ‘Keep it simple,’” Pollock said. “I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on, so when I’m at the field, all this other stuff that I used to do, maybe put that aside. Just focus on the important stuff and take care of business. It’s like a pickup game of basketball. You just go out there and compete.”

Pollock is one six right-handed hitters slated to face Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray, who is 8-5 against the Dodgers in his career with a 3.15 ERA.

Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are the only left-handers in the lineup. Seager will be the designated hitter, with Chris Taylor filling in at shortstop.

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Right-hander Ross Stripling starts for the Dodgers, looking to build off his impressive seven-inning, one-run season debut against the San Francisco Giants last week.

Dodgers’ starting lineup for Thursday’s game:

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1. Mookie Betts — Right field

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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2. Max Muncy — First base

Dodgers infielder Max Muncy
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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3. Justin Turner — Third base

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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4. Cody Bellinger — Center field

Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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5. AJ Pollock — Left field

Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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6. Chris Taylor — Shortstop

Dodgers utility player Chris Taylor.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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7. Corey Seager — Designated hitter

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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8. Kiké Hernández — Second base

Dodgers utility player Kike Hernandez.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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9. Will Smith — Catcher

Dodgers catcher Will Smith.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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Ross Stripling — Starting pitcher

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)