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Clayton Kershaw will start Thursday for Dodgers against Mets

Kershaw has been on the injured list with low back pain for nearly four weeks

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers plan to start Clayton Kershaw in Thursday’s series finale against the Mets at Citi Field in New York, manager Dave Roberts said on Tuesday.

Kershaw proclaimed himself ready after pitching four simulated innings on Saturday in Miami, making his way back from lower back pain that’s sidelined him for almost four weeks.

This has been decided for days, but neither Kershaw nor Roberts divulged before Tuesday, previously saying only that Kershaw’s start would be either Thursday or Friday.

Thursday always made the most sense for Kershaw’s return. For one, he threw a bullpen session on Monday and, per Roberts above, Dustin May threw his bullpen session on Tuesday. May, who last pitched Saturday, will start the series opener at home against the Padres on Friday.

Kershaw didn’t go on a minor league rehab assignment during this injured list stint, telling reporters on Saturday in Miami one of the benefits of that decision was not having to make any extra travel, given his back issues. So given the choice between starting in New York or on Friday after a long, cross-country flight (even had Kershaw departed earlier than his teammates, to ensure extra rest), the series finale against the Mets seemed apt.

Thursday is September 1, when active roster limits expand to 28 players, including 14 pitchers. So the Dodgers won’t have to make a corresponding roster move to make room for Kershaw. The team is currently carrying nine relievers, with Jake Reed and Heath Hembree activated on Tuesday.

Michael Grove, who started Monday in Miami, was optioned Tuesday, leaving the Dodgers with four active starting pitchers. Kershaw on Thursday will make five. The planned six-man rotation had Tony Gonsolin still been active is on hold, but possibly not for too much longer.

“The easy answer is we’re going to stick with five, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we inserted somebody at some point to give guys an extra day,” Roberts told reporters on Tuesday, per SportsNet LA. “But I don’t know when that’s going to be.”

Perhaps related, the earliest Ryan Pepiot can be recalled is next Tuesday, September 6, after his 15 days on option is up. Pepiot is currently scheduled to start Friday for Triple-A Oklahoma City.