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Dodgers starting lineup vs. Diamondbacks: Clayton Kershaw makes season debut

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) poses for a portrait.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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Clayton Kershaw will make his season debut Sunday as the Dodgers go for a series win against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner started the regular season on the injured list with back stiffness but recovered quickly, throwing bullpen sessions earlier this week before being activated Sunday.

“There’s just a different demeanor in the clubhouse on his pitch day,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday night. “We’re happy for the Dodgers, but I think a tick more we’re just happy for Clayton because he worked so hard to get back.”

Kershaw’s back issue popped up during a training session two days before the team’s season-opener. Instead of making his franchise-record ninth opening day start, he watched from the stands.

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“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” Kershaw said the next day. “Working all that time trying to stay ready, I really felt so good going into the season. It was pretty defeating honestly. Just like, how is this happening right now?”

Kershaw has battled back injuries previously in his career, including a more than two-month-long absence in 2016 with a herniated disc.

Slumping slugger Cody Bellinger was given the day off, and the Dodgers responded by homering four times in an 11-2 rout of the Diamondbacks.

This time, however, the left-hander was confident that his stay on the IL wouldn’t be extended. After rookie Dustin May pitched in Kershaw’s place the first two times through the rotation, Kershaw will be trying to help the Dodgers take three of four from Arizona and clinch a winning record on this nine-game road trip.

“We’ll keep an eye on him,” Roberts said when asked about Kershaw’s stamina. “We don’t really know a number right now, as far as pitch count.”

Kershaw’s return coincides with a key absence in Sunday’s lineup, as hot-hitting shortstop Corey Seager will be unavailable with a left quad issue.

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Seager, who is leading the team in hits and home runs and is second in RBIs, was removed early from Saturday’s game with what Roberts initially told reporters was a calf cramp resulting from a foul ball the previous night.

However, Roberts said Sunday that Seager’s quad issue — which is a separate incident — also factored into his early exit Saturday. The manager said the shortstop is day-to-day.

“I think [it was caused] a little bit by dehydration,” Roberts said. “It was hot in here and there might have been a little cramping. We really don’t know but just, where we’re at, we wanted to make sure that nothing else comes of it.”

Chris Taylor is at shortstop with Seager out, batting fifth. Center fielder Cody Bellinger returned to the lineup after getting Saturday off amid a slow start.

Austin Barnes will be the catcher for Kershaw’s first start. To make room for the pitcher on the roster, right-handed pitcher Mitch White was optioned Sunday.

Dodgers’ starting lineup for Sunday’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. Chris Taylor — Shortstop

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

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6. AJ Pollock - Left field

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

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7. Joc Pederson — Designated hitter

Dodgers first baseman Joc Pederson.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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8. Kiké Hernandez — Second base

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

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9. Austin Barnes - Catcher

Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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Clayton Kershaw — Starting pitcher

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

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