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Dan Haren: The starting pitcher is back close to home and ever so happy to be there.

The 33-year-old right-hander doesn’t have to be the man in this rotation, or even the No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher, not with the loads of talent around him on his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He fits nicely into the No. 4 starter role occupied last season by Ricky Nolasco, who wound up getting a four-year contract with Minnesota.

Haren, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract, comes to the Dodgers with confidence after a strong final half of the season with the Washington Nationals a year ago.

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His home is in Orange County, about a 50-mile drive from the ballpark. He and his wife have a bevy of relatives throughout the Los Angeles area.

With at least 30 starts in each of his past 10 seasons, he believes he brings durability to the back end of the rotation.

“I take the ball every fifth day or whatever is asked,” he said. “More often than not, I keep the team in the game.”

Haren threw his first bullpen session of the spring on Sunday, the first workout day for the Dodgers pitchers and catchers. Arizona and Los Angeles opened spring training earlier than usual because they open the regular season with a pair of games in Sydney, Australia March 22-23. The Dodgers were joined by their latest pitcher signing, left-hander Paul Maholm, who signed a one-year deal on Saturday.

Maholm could take the No. 5 spot if Josh Beckett isn’t fully recovered from surgery to repair a nerve condition.

Haren signed last November, early for a free agent. With free agent starters still looking for jobs, or having to settle for less than they wanted, he’s glad he decided so early.

“It was really being close to home and being on a championship club,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The Associated Press

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