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Cody Bellinger back in cleanup role for Dodgers on opening day

Dodgers at Rockies. First pitch: 1:10 p.m. PT

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Cody Bellinger is back in the cleanup spot, a familiar spot for the Dodgers center fielder in the team’s first lineup of the 2021 regular season.

Bellinger was entrenched in the sixth spot in the lineup in all 18 postseason games in 2020, but in his career his most common position in the batting order has been fourth. Thursday is his 307th start batting cleanup, 65.3 percent of his 470 career starts.

This was an expected move, as Bellinger batted fourth in each of his last eight spring training starts, including hitting home runs on both Monday and Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers-Rockies lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Rockies
Pos Dodgers Pos Rockies
RF Betts LF Tapia (L)
SS Seager (L) 3B Fuentes
3B Turner SS Story
CF Bellinger (L) RF Blackmon (L)
1B Muncy (L) 1B Cron
LF Taylor C Díaz
2B Lux (L) 2B Owings
C Barnes CF Hampson
P Kershaw (L) P Marquez

“I think he’s seeing the ball well. I like the way he’s getting off his A swing a lot,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “I like Cody in the four. I like his ability to get on base and impact the baseball.”

Bellinger is a career .346/.440/.654 hitter at Coors Field, with six home runs, 11 doubles, 25 runs scored, and 20 RBI in 31 games.

Max Muncy, who batted cleanup in every game last postseason, is hitting fifth directly after Bellinger, giving the Dodgers back-to-back left-handers against Rockies right-hander German Marquez. Both Bellinger (24 at-bats) and Muncy (16 at-bats) only have three career hits against Marquez, but for each of them two of the three hits were home runs.

Chris Taylor gets the call in left field over A.J. Pollock in the opener. Pollock is 9-for-22 (.409) with two triples, a double, and a walk in his career against Marquez. Taylor is 2-for-7 with three walks and a hit by pitch against the right-hander.

Roberts said he expects Pollock to start in left field Friday and both Pollock and Taylor will play three out of four games this weekend.

Corey Seager and Justin Turner are each making their sixth opening day start with Los Angeles, among active Dodgers trailing only pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who is on the mound for his ninth opening day on Thursday. Seager is 5-for-22 (.227) in his previous opening days, but four of his five hits were for extra bases, including home runs in 2017 and 2019. Turner doesn’t have an opening day home run, but is 7-for-23 (.304) with five doubles in his opening day starts.

Charlie Blackmon, hitting fourth for Colorado, is hitting .286/.338/.556 in 68 career plate appearances against Kershaw, and his four home runs are tied with Adam Dunn for the most ever by a left-handed batter against the longtime Dodgers ace.

Kershaw at the plate is a .354/.380/.417 hitter in 59 career plate appearances at Coors Field, and as Jon Weisman noted at Dodger Thoughts last week, since 2013 he is hitting .433 with a .533 slugging percentage in Denver. But in addition, Kershaw has an active five-game hitting streak at Coors Field, dating back to 2015.

And the last time the Dodgers had opening day on April 1, Kershaw homered.

The Dodgers taxi squad for the road trip includes pitchers Dennis Santana and Garrett Cleavinger, outfielders DJ Peters and Luke Raley, and catcher Keibert Ruiz.