GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A starting pitcher got through the seventh inning 18 times in the 32 postseason games that were played last October.
So, while Kershaw was able to enjoy his winter after an MVP 2014 season and having welcomed a baby daughter into the world, the Los Angeles Dodgers ace calibrates his goals a little differently now. He won’t be able to achieve all of them until the weather begins to turn cool again, and that won’t be for half a year, at least.
“I think for me, you want to make up for everything that didn’t go well in October, but you can’t do that in April,” Kershaw said after reporting to Camelback Ranch on Thursday morning. “So, you’ve got to wait for it first.”
Kershaw is coming off four straight major-league ERA titles and the first MVP season by a pitcher in the National League in 36 years, but two straight rough playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals continue to gnaw at him, of course. When he accepted his MVP award at the New York baseball writers’ dinner, he thanked the Cardinals for reminding him, “You’re never as good as you think you are.”
It will be hard for Kershaw to improve upon a season in which he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and struck out 239 batters in fewer than 200 innings -- despite missing more than a month with an injury. It’s fair to say the Dodgers aren’t dwelling on his postseason failings, which, last season, were isolated to the seventh inning in both games.
“It’s really hard to even talk about because we’ve turned the page to 2015, but he dominated them for 12 innings in that series. I mean, absolutely dominated,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “You guys have seen the numbers yourself. He just ran into two innings against one of the best grinding teams in all of baseball. I don’t think he has anything to prove. It’s hard to prove anything more than being the best pitcher of our generation.”
Kershaw looked fit and surprisingly well-rested for having a four-week-old baby at home. He said, half-jokingly, that he was in the best shape of his life. Cali Ann Kershaw was born Jan. 23. Kershaw called the birth of his and his wife Ellen’s first child a “game-changer.”
“I feel like I’m a decent dad at this point. It was tough to leave them, obviously, but Ellen’s a champ. She can handle it,” Kershaw said. “I’ve definitely changed some diapers and I’ve gotten up. I mean, there’s only so much you can do, but I’ve offered some moral support.”
Another long-term relationship is to be determined. Kershaw is the Dodgers’ presumptive Opening Day starter, but the question is whether Ellis will be the Opening Day catcher. The Dodgers’ biggest winter trade landed them Yasmani Grandal from the San Diego Padres, which means the majority of Ellis’ starts might come when Kershaw is pitching. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has said he’s not a big fan of pitchers having a personal catcher, but Kershaw didn’t sound keen on breaking up his working relationship with Ellis, who is also a close friend.
“That’s Donnie’s call," Kershaw said. "I love throwing to A.J., obviously, and I’ve had some success doing that, but I can’t answer that.”