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Who will be the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter? Dave Roberts says decision is coming

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May delivers during a game against the San Diego Padres on March 20.
Dustin May delivers during a game against the San Diego Padres on March 20. May is one of the pitchers vying for the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

The setting had changed, the Dodgers returning to Southern California to face the Angels in Anaheim for an exhibition game after a month and a half in Arizona. But the question remained the same.

Who will be the Dodgers’ fifth starting pitcher to open the season?

Manager Dave Roberts still wasn’t ready to say Sunday, only reiterating that Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and David Price all remain in the mix.

“We’re going to have that conversation [Monday],” Roberts said, “to kind of get some finality.”

Price was supposed to start Sunday, the first of three Freeway Series exhibition games the Dodgers and Angels will play this week before opening day. But the left-hander was scratched after he woke up not feeling well, Roberts said, and will instead join Walker Buehler in a simulated game Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

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With Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Victor Gonzalez and Gavin Lux now on the Dodgers roster, the team’s farm system isn’t as heralded.

Price is returning this year after he opted out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns. If the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner doesn’t make the rotation, it would be his first time starting a major league season in the bullpen.

Gonsolin, who originally was slated to pitch in relief Sunday, started in Price’s place and gave up four runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six, walked three and finished the spring with a 3.21 earned-run average.

“I’m open to anything,” Gonsolin said of his potential role. “Just want to get on the mound and pitch.”

May, who has surrendered just four runs in 13 2/3 innings this spring, will pitch in Tuesday’s series finale, lining him up to follow No.4 starter Julio Urías, who will pitch Monday. Does that mean May has the inside track for the fifth spot?

“He’s starting that game on Tuesday,” Roberts said, “but we just haven’t finalized that last piece.”

Angels option Ty Buttrey, reunite with Noé Ramirez

It was clear the Angels still had a couple of bullpen cuts to make before opening day, but few expected Ty Buttrey to be one of the relievers sent down.

Yet that’s what happened Sunday, when the Angels surprisingly optioned Buttrey a year after he led the team with five saves but struggled with consistency and had a 5.81 ERA.

During his first two major league seasons in 2018 and 2019, Buttrey was one of the Angels’ best relievers, a hard-throwing right-hander who racked up 104 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings with a 3.86 ERA.

Last year, however, his strikeout rate dropped almost by half, his walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) jumped to 1.41 and he struggled to close games, blowing four of nine save chances. This spring, he gave up three earned runs in seven innings and struck out seven but also walked four batters and hit another.

Taylor Ward hits a walk-off home run in the eighth inning to push the Angels to a 6-5 win over the Dodgers in the Freeway Series opener Sunday.

“We love him. We think it’s all going to be there. [He’s] just working through some things,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, adding: “For right now, we wanted to slow it down for him, permit him to really get his feet on the ground, establish his program, protocols, then get him on back up here.”

Buttrey’s demotion wasn’t the only bullpen move the Angels made Sunday. According to a person with knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record, the Angels reached a deal with reliever Noé Ramirez, the right-hander they had traded to the Cincinnati Reds this offseason to obtain closer Raisel Iglesias.

Ramirez has a 4.18 ERA in 184 career appearances with the Angels and Boston Red Sox but was cut by the Reds on Saturday after he gave up six runs in six innings this spring.

Maddon said before Sunday’s game that a deal hadn’t been finalized but that the Angels and Ramirez have been in discussions.

Short hops

The Dodgers reassigned catcher Stevie Berman and infielders Elliot Soto and Andy Burns. Burns had been battling Zach McKinstry for one of the team’s final infield roster spots. … AJ Pollock was also scratched from Sunday’s game because of an illness, but Roberts said he expects the outfielder to be back in the lineup Monday. … Maddon said Shohei Ohtani will hit and pitch Monday. Depending on how he’s feeling, Ohtani could also get a couple of at-bats Tuesday.


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