As Dodgers open spring training, Clayton Kershaw ready to get back to work

Despite MVP and Cy Young awards, pitcher's mind was never far from last season's failure to win World Series

Clayton Kershaw walked into to the Dodgers' spring-training complex Thursday, knowing this was only the start.

There will be more than six weeks of camp, which will be followed by a 162-game season played over six months. Then, maybe, just maybe, he will have another chance to win his first World Series ring.

"For me, you want to make up for everything that didn't go well in October," he said. "But you can't do that in April. So you've got to wait for it first."

Since his elimination-game defeat to the St. Louis Cardinals in a National League division series, Kershaw already waited more than four months to do what he did on this day, which was to report to spring training with his team's other pitchers and catchers.

He recognizes that his two losses in that series are now as much a part of his story as his historic regular season, in which he was 21-3 with a 1.77 earned-run average.

So when Kershaw received his most valuable player and Cy Young awards last month, he finished his acceptance speech by thanking the Cardinals — "for reminding me that you're never as good as you think you are," he said that day.

Asked Thursday why he felt compelled to include that in his speech, Kershaw replied, "I just wanted everybody to know that those awards mean a lot to me, but I'm not oblivious to the fact we didn't win the World Series. I just wanted to make sure that message got across."

That doesn't mean Kershaw had a miserable off-season.

He said he enjoyed the recognition he received. His MVP award was the first won by a pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968. His Cy Young Award was his third in four seasons.

"It's fun to celebrate," he said. "Who knows? I might not get to win those awards again, so you don't want to just have the postseason deter from what you accomplished. It is kind of a fine line, I guess, to really want to celebrate and enjoy it and have that [failure] in the back of your mind."

The highlight of the winter came last month, when his wife gave birth to their first child, daughter Cali Ann.

"It's a game-changer," he said. "It's been awesome. She's just the best."

Kershaw smiled as he talked about changing diapers and waking up in the middle of the night.

"It was a great off-season," he said.

When Kershaw left his wife and daughter in their Dallas-area home, he returned to a Dodgers team that underwent drastic changes over the winter.

He spoke with Yasmani Grandal, the catcher who was acquired as part of the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Next week, he will meet newcomers Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, who will make up the Dodgers' middle infield.

"The guys that we brought in are great … especially up the middle with Yasmani and Howie and Jimmy," he said.

Kershaw also acknowledged the departures of Kemp and Hanley Ramirez.

"We have to make up for that somehow, and hopefully we can do that," he said.

As a pitcher, did Kershaw like the team's increased focus on defense?

"Our job doesn't change," he said.

Kershaw could be most affected by the addition of Grandal. The majority of Kershaw's starts over the last three seasons were caught by A.J. Ellis, his closest friend on the team.

Kershaw wouldn't say he wanted Ellis as his personal catcher. But he wouldn't say that he didn't want him to be, either.

"I love throwing to A.J.," Kershaw said. "Obviously, I've had some success doing that."

Ultimately, the decision is Manager Don Mattingly's to make, he said.

Mattingly said he doesn't want to designate personal catchers for pitchers, even if the pitcher in question is Kershaw.

"It really does box you in, as far as writing a lineup," Mattingly said.

Whatever happens, Kershaw doesn't anticipate any problems developing a relationship with Grandal.

"I've had a lot of different guys come through here," he said. "I've had a lot of good ones, from Russell [Martin] starting out to Rod [Barajas] and Dioner Navarro, and A.J. for a long time now. He comes with a great reputation, Grandal does, of being able to catch the ball and block the ball and stuff. It should be good."

Kershaw said he is looking forward to a normal spring training, unlike last year, when the Dodgers started camp earlier than usual to prepare for a season-opening series in Australia. Kershaw strained a back muscle while pitching in Australia and was on the disabled list for the entire month of April.

"I don't blame Australia for getting hurt, but I got hurt and I happened to be in Australia," he said. "I guess if you eliminate that, I guess I won't get hurt."

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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