Free from the grind of Boston, David Price loving his new life with Dodgers: ‘I couldn’t be happier’

PHOENIX — David Price, standing by his locker with the music blaring, watches teammate Mookie Betts dive across the floor playing ping-pong in a laid-back clubhouse without the suffocating presence of a huge media throng.

He closes his eyes, exhales and starts laughing.

It’s almost surreal.

“It’s such a big difference from Boston to here,’’ says Price, who makes his Los Angeles Dodgers spring-training debut Monday. “Really, it’s night and day."

Price, 34, kept laughing as he recalled his first experience in Dodgers camp. He was facing hitters for the first time in nearly six months after undergoing wrist surgery in September to help his circulation, which plagued him all last season with the Red Sox. He threw pain-free then shook hands with the coaching staff and GM Andrew Friedma, before entering the Dodgers clubhouse, where he expected to be greeted by a mob of reporters.

“That was a big day for me, a very big day,’’ Price says, recounting the details. “I came in, got undressed, showered, came back to my locker, and stood there for 10 or 15 minutes. There were maybe two or three [reporters] hanging out, talking to other guys, and nobody came over to talk to be about my day. I couldn’t believe it.

“It was like after me and Mookie had our introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium, we walk off the field when it was all done, and Mookie says, 'That’s it? Is this a joke?'"

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Price and Betts relayed the story to Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Friedman last week at dinner in Phoenix, and they were told this hardly was an anomaly. LA is certainly a big media market, Johnson and Friedman told them, but with a small-market feel.

“I’ve only been here a couple of weeks but I really couldn't be happier,’’ Price says.

"Look, it’s not like I wanted to be traded. I was grateful for my four years in Boston. I went there to win, and we won. But if I had a list of the top three or four teams I would have wanted to be traded to, LA would definitely have been on it. “I’m honored to be part of this franchise, and it’s place in history.’’

Price, who was included in the Mookie Betts trade for salary relief, isn’t bitter towards his former team. No hard feelings. He carved out his own piece of history and will forever be remembered in Boston for winning the 2018 World Series against these Dodgers. He wants to make sure he does the same before departing Los Angeles, too.

"I couldn’t imagine losing two World Series in a row," Price says of the Dodgers, who also lost in 2017 to the Houston Astros. "I can’t. That’s brutal.

“I know what that feeling is like winning it all, what it meant to me, and that why I want so bad for these guys to experience that same feeling.’’

It has been 32 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series, and it’s as if Price and Betts want to personally erase all of the angst. Betts addressed the team on the second day of camp, telling them how they have to treat spring training drills as if it’s World Series, and Price is already mentoring the young pitchers every single day.

“He’s awesome,’’ three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw says, “you can tell he’s genuinely invested in everybody. It’s easy for a starting pitcher to get caught up in your own routine, but he’s helping everyone.’’

Price spent four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, winning a World Series title in 2018. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)

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“I’m so excited that David is out of that market because people were trying to question his character,’’ says New York Mets starter Marcus Stroman, who was briefly teammates with Price in Toronto. “If you ask anybody that ever met or anyone who’s ever been around David, character has never been an issue. He’s the best teammate I ever had. He continues to be one of the best mentors in my life. It’s comical to me when I read things questioning his character. He’s a role model to every single guy who comes into that clubhouse.

“You watch what he does now going that he’s out of Boston.’’

Says Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner: “I think he got a bad rep from the media in Boston. I’ve had a lot of teammates here that come from Boston and told me how tough it is over there to deal with. But everyone I talked to, everyone who knows David, loves him to death.

“I think he’s got something to prove here. Everybody is talking about Mookie, and it’s like, 'What about me?’ The first time I texted him to welcome him to the Dodgers, he said, 'I’m so excited to be in LA. I can’t wait go to win a championship.’ So he fits right in here.’’

Price, who concedes he made mistakes in Boston, including yelling at Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on the team plane for being negative on the airwaves, no longer has to worry about any of that. 

"He’s going to do everything he can to help us win a championship," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says. "He understands that Mookie was the headliner of the trade, but don’t mistake that for the confidence he has in himself. He’s a top-tier starter. He’s a stud.’’

Price, who pitched only 107 innings last year , insists he’s not coming into the season with a vengeance. There’s no chip on his shoulder. As long as he’s healthy, he’s confident he’ll get the last laugh.

“For me it’s not about proving people wrong,’’ says Price, “it’s about proving myself right. I know I can still bring a lot to the table. I know if I’m healthy, the back of my baseball card will look just fine. So, whether I’m running out there to the mound, or my days in the dugout when I’m not pitching and talking to young guys, I know I can help.’’

The Dodgers are also counting on Price and Betts to have a huge impact in the community.

“David Price and Mookie Betts in Los Angeles,’’ says Roberts, the first African-American manager in Dodger history, “this is great for baseball. There’s so much diversity in the city of Los Angeles, for us to know we have two African-American players for people to identify with, I just think it’s great for the city, it’s great for baseball."

Price already has volunteered to be part of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program in Los Angeles, and has circled April 15 on his calendar when the Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s Jackie Robinson Day, and Price plans to be part of all the celebrations.

“That day has always been extremely special to me,’’ Price says. “I know Jackie Robinson’s family came out to throw the first pitch last year at Dodger Stadium.

"I want to catch that first pitch this year. If I don’t get to catch it, I’m going to be out there for that photo, and let them know how their family impacted me.’’

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