PHOENIX — There were no moments of anguish, no tinges of guilt, just unadulterated sheer joy this entire winter for Clayton Kershaw, who was still glowing Sunday about finally winning that coveted World Series championship.
This may be Kershaw’s final year in his Los Angeles Dodgers contract on his way to Cooperstown, New York, but barring something going horribly wrong, this won’t be the last you’ll see of him.
He has no thoughts of retiring.
“I have no intention of hanging them up,’’ Kershaw said at the Dodgers’ spring-training complex. “I’m only 32. I have a few years left in the tank. …
“If you ask me right now, I really still love playing. I feel healthy right now. … I'm focused on this year, and trying to win a World Series and then after this year, well, we'll figure things out.’’
Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young winner, was able to win the Dodgers’ first World Series since 1988 in his hometown of Dallas with the World Series being played at the neutral site at Globe Life Park, but he still misses that joy of spraying champagne and having a parade in downtown Los Angeles.
Clayton Kershaw is in the final season of his contract with the Dodgers. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)
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“We really haven’t had a chance to celebrate together, no parade,’’he says. “Maybe we can live it up for a few days and get ready for the season.’’
And really party in style in October with another World Series title, becoming the first National League team to repeat since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.
“I do feel like there's some relief coming into the year obviously, and having won one,’’ Kershaw said, “and maybe not having that added burden to win the first one in 32 years. ….[In years past] it was like, “Man, I’ve got to do this because I didn't succeed, we didn't succeed, and I have to get better. Now it's like, well, it's more positive.
“It’s like I want to get ready and be at my best for this team because we're really good and you have a chance to win. Our team has a chance to be really special again, and we can’t take that for granted.’’
If the Dodgers win another one, hey, why wouldn’t he want to come back to Los Angeles where one day there could be a statue of him outside the Dodger Stadium gates?
“I love being here,’’ he said. “I love the Dodgers. I love everything about this organization. I just feel really fortunate that I've gotten to have as many opportunities I've had to win a World Series, and now that we finally won one, it's just you just don't take that for granted.’’
Certainly, the Dodgers are loaded for more glory. They shelled out $102 million to land National League Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer. Former AL Cy Young winner David Price is returning after opting out last season. They just re-signed third baseman Justin Turner to a two-year, $34 million contract.
“There's not many teams that have gone all in year after year like we have,’’ Kershaw said, “to try and bring home a World Series. So that’s our motivation for this year, not trying to squander that opportunity.’’
And no, Kershaw said, he has no qualms in bringing in a personality like Bauer, believing he’ll fit right into the Dodgers’ culture.
“I think the Dodgers do a really good job, our clubhouse does a really good job of taking in all types of different personalities, different people, and getting the best out of them," Kershaw said. "And we expect that with Trevor. We’re going to let Trevor be himself and do what he's continued to do over the course of his career.
“I think for me personally, I'm just excited to talk to him about pitching. … I'm excited to talk to him about different grips, different ways to get the most out of what you're doing, and I think he's going to make us all better.
“I think he's going to make us think about different things and I think that's great. You have to continue to adapt and innovate to get better. Hopefully he enjoys and gets comfortable here. At the end of the day, we just want to pitch well, and if he pitches well, we're going to be in a good spot.’’
The challenge this year, Kershaw says, won’t be complacency, but playing through a 162-game season. They played just 60 games a year ago, and Kershaw made 10 starts, pitching in 58 1/3 innings. Who knows, maybe the Dodgers will use a six-man rotation. Maybe they’ll make sure no one pitches more than 180 innings. The only Dodgers pitcher to make even 30 starts in a season the past six years is Walker Buehler in 2019.
“I think more than anything we're going to have to fight that it's a six-month season,’’ Kershaw said. “There will be the initial excitement because we didn't really get to play a lot last year, but May, June, July, those months we're going to have to fight through it. Those are going to be tough months especially after not playing a full season. I'm sure they're going to maximize everybody.
“I think that's as a collective group we understand that, and we're going to do whatever we think we can do to be ready for October.’’
There’s little question the Dodgers, favorites to again win the World Series, will be playing again in October, just as they have the past eight years as NL West Division champions.
And, judging from Kershaw’s sentiments, he plans to be back on that mound for a few more years, too, letting the baseball world know that the Hall of Fame can wait a little longer.
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