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Mookie Betts returns to Dodgers lineup after missing 16 games

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MLB: AUG 04 Astros at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mookie Betts has been one of the best hitters in baseball since the All-Star break, but has been unable to stay on the field. The Dodgers hope that changes now that Betts is back in the lineup on Thursday night against the Padres, activated off the injured list.

Betts missed 16 games with right hip inflammation, and during this injured list stint was diagnosed with a bone spur in his right hip. It’s been an injury that’s bugged him all year, and since the break has missed missed 27 of the last 32 games on two separate IL trips.

A second cortisone shot worked better than the first, and Betts told reporters at Dodger Stadium last Thursday that his hip was pain free.

“I feel normal now. I feel like the beginning of spring training now,” Betts said last week, per Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register. “There’s no pain at all or anything. Hopefully, I can stay on this path and I’ll be perfectly fine.”

Betts was all smiles on Sunday as he went through a variety of pregame workouts at Dodger Stadium, running at full speed without hindrance. He played in a pair of simulated games in Los Angeles this week before joining the team in San Diego.

“With a player that’s going through some things, you can tell by their disposition, demeanor,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “He just in such a good place emotionally right now, which speaks to how well his body feels.”

Dodgers-Padres lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
2B Turner RF Tatis Jr.
SS Seager (L) SS Cronenworth (L)
RF Betts 3B Machado
3B Turner LF Pham
LF Pollock CF Grisham (L)
CF Bellinger (L) 1B Profar (S)
1B McKinney (L) 2B Kim
C Barnes C Caratini (S)
P Scherzer P Darvish

Betts started heating up just before the All-Star break, which he used to rest for four days despite being named to his fifth midsummer classic. In his last 10 games, Betts has 20 hits in 38 at-bats, including six home runs and four doubles, hitting .526/.578/1.105 with 17 runs scored.

On the season, Betts is hitting .277/.378/.521, a 143 wRC+ with 17 home runs and 25 doubles.

The return of Betts gives the Dodgers the full complement of regulars available, something that has only happened for 10 games this season before Thursday — the first five games of the season, then the first five games of August.

“My anticipation is tempered because of what’s what we’ve gone through this year,” Roberts said Sunday with a smile.

Thursday is just the second of such games at full capacity since Trea Turner joined the team, deepening a lineup that leads the National League in runs scored and wRC+.

Gavin Lux is the roster casualty, optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Betts. Lux since returning from the injured list has played in three of eight games. He started twice — once each at third base and second base — but only batted once as a reserve in the six games since, flying out to the wall in right center field on Wednesday night in the 16th inning.

Matt Beaty was also optioned to Triple-A, and Darien Núñez was added to the bullpen. More on that shortly.