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Walker Buehler is chosen Dodgers’ opening day starter for first time in his career

There was no formal meeting, no grand announcement or ceremonial declaration.

Instead, the changing of the guard occurred in a brief conversation between manager and pitcher at the Dodgers’ spring training complex this week.

Walker Buehler will be the team’s opening day starter when the season kicks off on April 8 in Colorado, manager Dave Roberts announced Thursday, giving the 27-year-old right-hander his first career opening day nod — and marking the first time in more than a decade that Clayton Kershaw won’t pitch the season opener for a reason other than injury.

Since 2011, Kershaw has missed an opening day start only twice: in 2019, when he had left shoulder inflammation, and in 2020 because of back stiffness.

But this year, the future Hall of Famer will slot in the rotation behind Buehler, the burgeoning ace who cemented himself last season as the top arm on the team.

While Kershaw battled an elbow injury during the 2021 campaign, Buehler had a career-best season. He led the team’s starters with a 2.47 ERA (excluding midseason addition Max Scherzer), 212 strikeouts and 5.5 wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs. He made four starts in the postseason, including two on short rest. He came into spring training as seemingly the most important pitcher on the staff.

But opening day has been an annual honor belonging to Kershaw for years.

Not since 2010 had he been passed over for the season opener when healthy. And that year, after Vicente Padilla began the season ahead of the then-third year left-hander, Kershaw quickly emerged as one of the club’s all-time great pitchers, going on to make a franchise-record nine opening day starts including last season.

Roberts said the time was right this season to pass the ceremonial start to Buehler, who has a career 2.90 ERA and has twice finished in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting since making his debut in 2017.

“It’s one game, we all understand that. But it’s ceremonious … and that’s a feather in his cap for what he’s done over the last few years to get to this point,” Roberts said. “We knew, we hoped it was going to happen at some point. And I just think the timing is perfect.”



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