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Josiah Gray to stay in Dodgers’ starting rotation for now

Dave Roberts says Gray will start Sunday against the Colorado Rockies and will likely get an opportunity to establish himself in the rotation until Clayton Kershaw returns from his elbow injury.

LOS ANGELES — As young players have progressed from the Dodgers’ farm system onto the major-league roster, Manager Dave Roberts has often used the same analogy.

So – does Josiah Gray now get “a runway” to establish himself in the big leagues?

“Yes, he has a runway,” Roberts said Wednesday.

Gray will make his second big-league appearance and first major-league start on Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies. Roberts indicated Gray will likely stay in the Dodgers’ starting rotation until Clayton Kershaw returns from the injured list. Kershaw has just begun his throwing program, playing catch out to about 90 feet the past three days.

Gray’s status could change, however, based on any acquisitions the Dodgers make before the July 30 trade deadline.

The 23-year-old Gray made his major-league debut in Tuesday’s games, entering in the third inning and producing mixed results – he struck out seven in four innings (including four consecutive batters at one point) but also gave up four runs on three home runs.

“Honestly, the butterflies were there the whole time,” Gray said Wednesday. “As I was sitting in the bullpen, I was just antsy and really just trying to play out scenarios in my head. Obviously, you never can, just because of the unpredictable nature of the game. But the butterflies were there the whole time. They never truly went away.”

After making one start in Triple-A, Gray spent two months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. The Dodgers’ starting pitching melted away during that time and Gray would likely have made his big-league debut much sooner if he had been healthy.

“I definitely felt like if I was healthy at the right moment I would definitely have gotten a shot earlier,” Gray said. “I didn’t really think much of it. I knew I was hurt. There wasn’t anything I could really do except make sure that my rehab was going really well and that I was available after the rehab process was done. And that’s where I am now.”

IN ‘N’ OUT

Infielder Max Muncy was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday after being hit in the right shoulder blade by a pitch and leaving Tuesday’s game in the seventh inning. Third baseman Justin Turner and outfielder Mookie Betts were not in the lineup.

Turner was hit in the left knee by a pitch Tuesday and left the game in the fifth inning. Roberts said he was considering giving Turner Wednesday off even before that. The knee contusion settled matters, though Turner was available to come off the bench if needed.

Betts, meanwhile, took ground balls at second base as part of his pre-game workout but he was not in the starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game Wednesday and Roberts acknowledged the injured list was “a possibility” for Betts.

“It’s certainly a possibility. I didn’t think it was a few days ago,” Roberts said. “It’s a possibility. It’s not ideal. But the most important thing is getting Mookie back to 100 percent.”

Betts aggravated a right hip pointer over the weekend in Colorado.

Muncy is still awaiting the birth of his first child and will leave the team for “two, three days” when that seems imminent, Roberts said.

“Right now, we got him until we don’t when Kelly has that baby,” Roberts said. “So I’m trying to take advantage of him while he’s here with us.”

TRADE WINDS

The Dodgers made a trade Tuesday afternoon, sending minor-league outfielder Carlos Rincon to the New York Mets in exchange for outfielder Billy McKinney.

McKinney, 26, was a first-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2013 and has bounced around among the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and Mets over the past four seasons. The left-handed hitter has batted. 225 with 26 home runs and a .718 OPS in 203 big-league games. This season, he has hit .213 with a .697 OPS and eight home runs in 79 combined games with the Brewers and Mets.

McKinney is expected to join the Dodgers on Thursday. Rincon was batting .263 for Double-A Tulsa this season with 12 home runs.

ALSO

Their bench shortened by injuries to Betts and Turner, the Dodgers recalled infielder Sheldon Neuse from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday and returned left-hander Darien Nunez to OKC. Nunez appeared in four games for the Dodgers (his first big-league appearances), allowing four earned runs in six innings. …

Roberts said a minor-league injury-rehabilitation assignment is still under consideration for injured shortstop Corey Seager, who was expected to return this week. “We’re talking about that,” Roberts said Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Giants (RHP Anthony DeSclafani, 10-4, 2.78 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Walker Buehler, 10-1, 2.37 ERA), Thursday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM