Dodgers hoping Price is right again — in either role

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — David Price’s long career has prepared him for just about anything. From starter to reliever, he’s done it all and knows the roles.

He understands the possibilities, too.

There are plenty of those for Price as the Los Angeles Dodgers begin an abbreviated spring training schedule amid questions about their starting rotation. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías are projected to be the first three. After that, there’s uncertainty.

“I’m preparing to start,’’ Price said Wednesday before drills at the Dodgers’ spring complex at Camelback Ranch. “I’m preparing to come out of the bullpen. There are pros and cons to both, and I don’t mean cons in a bad way. I look forward to the challenges.

“My body feels great. My arm feels good.’’

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts thinks the left-hander might be good enough to start again. Price is coming off a year that saw him bounce between the bullpen and rotation. A hamstring injury sidelined him for about a month. Then, Price’s season ended abruptly because of a sore elbow. He didn’t appear in the postseason. His last start was Aug. 22.

In 2020, he didn’t pitch at all. He chose not to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Time with his family, he said then, was more important.

“No 2020,’’ Roberts said of an abbreviated season that ended with the Dodgers winning their first World Series title since 1988. “Think about that. It was more than just not pitching. It was not competing. It had to have had an impact. I just don’t know what it was. And I don’t think he does, either.

“Looking back, I think we put him in some tough situations, to be honest. But just going into this spring after last season is a step up. He’s already a grade-and-a-half better than he was a year ago.’’

Roberts mentioned Price, right-hander Tony Gonsolin and lefty Andrew Heaney as possible starters at the back of the rotation. Heaney, who has been with the Marlins, Angels and New York Yankees, signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Dodgers on Nov. 10.

Price, a five-time All-Star and the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner with Tampa Bay, compiled a 4.03 ERA over 39 appearances in 2021. He enters this season with one year left at $32 million on a contract the Dodgers acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster trade that featured Mookie Betts on Feb. 2, 2020. As part of the deal, the Red Sox agreed to pay half of Price’s salary. For this season, Price’s paycheck will be split in two — $16 million from the Dodgers and $16 million from the Red Sox.

Price turns 37 on Aug. 26, so he’s not a young pitcher anymore. But he’s eager to show he’s still a valuable one.

“I’m here to prove myself,” Price said. “I haven’t thrown my best baseball for the Dodgers. That is something that I look forward to doing. For me, I want to earn. I don’t want to be given anything. I want to go out there and earn it.

“This is a game I’ve put a lot of years into, a lot of hard work. To not go out there and get the results I expect is always disheartening. I want to be able to do that this year and have fun with it.”

That chance is there, in part because it’s not clear what will happen during spring or early in the regular season. The Dodgers open April 8 in Colorado.

NOTES: Betts said he feels good after he was troubled last season by an injury to his right hip. Betts was relieved that he didn’t need surgery. “It feels great,” he said. “I did some good work to get back healthy. I’m ready to go.” …Cody Bellinger is coming off an up-and-down year. Roberts said Bellinger can correct that. “It’s on him to change that narrative,’’ Roberts said. “I think there’s no doubt what we think of him as a ballplayer and what he can and has done to help us win.’’

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