Clayton Kershaw hoping to lead Los Angeles Dodgers to postseason success

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GLENDALE, Arizona — Clayton Kershaw had another outstanding year for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He won 21 games on his way to his third Cy Young Award and his first NL MVP trophy.

The left-hander also struggled in the playoffs, and that was on his mind when pitchers and catchers reported to the Dodgers' spring camp at Camelback Ranch on Thursday.

"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.

Kershaw went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA as the Dodgers lost to St. Louis in four games in the division series. The ace is just 1-5 in 11 career playoff games.

Kershaw thanked the Cardinals during his speech when he was honored on Jan. 24 at the Baseball Writers dinner in New York. The Cardinals reminded him, he said, that "you're never as good as you think you are."

He said Thursday that the acknowledgment for St. Louis was his way of saying individual awards are nice, but a World Series championship is still his priority.

"I'm not oblivious to the fact that we didn't win the World Series," he said. "I just wanted to make sure that message got across."

Kershaw's message came as no surprise to manager Don Mattingly, who joined executive Andrew Friedman at a news conference to talk about camp and the club's hopes for 2015.

"I think Clayton just continually moves forward," Mattingly said. "Obviously, you don't put up the kind of numbers he has over the last few years without putting the bar up higher and higher. He just goes about his business like he always has. Any situation he's in, he learns from it. I just see it as him trying to be better and better."

Kershaw returns to a much different roster after Friedman made several changes after he was brought over from Tampa Bay in October. Howie Kendrick, who was acquired in a trade with the Angels, takes over at second base after Dee Gordon was traded to Miami. Jimmy Rollins, who was acquired in a deal with the Phillies, figures to be at shortstop after Hanley Ramirez signed a free-agent deal with the Red Sox.

"Our job doesn't change," Kershaw said. "Obviously, we love to have the balls caught behind us. I think everybody we've had has the ability to do that. Obviously, the guys we brought in are supposed to be good at that. So, it definitely doesn't hurt as a pitcher."

The top of the pitching rotation - Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu - is the same. But two of last year's starters are gone. Dan Haren was traded to the Marlns, and Josh Beckett retired.

Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson are expected to fill their starting roles. McCarthy went 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA with the Yankees last year and agreed to a four-year contract with Los Angeles in December. Anderson, who made just eight starts with Colorado last season, agreed to a one-year contract in December.

"Brandon can be so precise," Friedman said. "On Brett, I understand the injuries. If we can get him through to the other end of the season without injury, the upside is tremendous."

The Dodgers' most pressing need is finding a temporary replacement for closer Kenley Jansen, who had surgery on his left foot on Tuesday. He is expected to be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks.

"It was just the prudent thing to do," Friedman said. "It was a good time to go in there and take care of it."

Friedman said he would explore all options, including trades and the free-agent market, in an attempt to find a closer for the first few weeks of regular season.

"We have a number of guys internally who will be evaluated in camp," Friedman said. "We're going to sift through all of it."

Outfielder Yasiel Puig was among the position players who reported early for camp Thursday. Position players are scheduled to report next Wednesday.

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