NL Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw: “I’m thankful they let me take my licks up here when I was young.”

November 18, 2011 – 7:20 am by Steven Cuce

Clayton Kershaw received 27 of a possible 32 first-place votes for the National League Cy Young Award. Kershaw, a first time winner of the award, won the equivalent of the triple crown for pitchers in 2011 — the 23-year old left hander tied for the NL lead with 21 wins, finished with the most strike outs (248), and was the leader in the clubhouse with his 2.28 ERA. Kerhaw becomes the eighth Dodger to win the award, and the youngest N.L. winner since Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets took home the prestigious prize in 1985 at the youthful age of 20.

Now all the Dodgers need to do is get back to winning as a team. The second half of the season saw the Dodgers finally respond to Don Mattingly, who looks comfortable in his first managing gig. Matt Kemp, a cornerstone of the Dodgers young core, was locked up this off-season with an eight-year deal worth $160-million. The McCourt family appears to be out of the picture from an ownership standpoint moving forward. Add it all up, and one shouldn’t be surprised to see a resurgent Dodgers squad in 2012.

Clayton Kershaw joined KLAC in Los Angeles with The Loose Cannons to discuss learning how to handle his superstar status, the point last season where he turned the corner and knew he could win the Cy Young Award, looking forward to next season, taking his lumps and having to mature at an early age during his career with the Dodgers, and who he thinks is the toughest out in the National League.

Did you learn how to handle being a star at such a young age from Sandy Koufax?

“Star is a funny word. I think it is for anybody. I think we got Matt Kemp. He’s the guy that goes out there every day and I’ll just follow him. I’ll follow his lead.”

At what point this season did you feel like you took the “next step” where you had the consistency to win a Cy Young award?

“I think that is the main word ‘consistency.’ I think it takes a little time up here to figure it out. I’m thankful they let me take my licks up here when I was young. They let me struggle. They let me  figure it out and I think I am better off for it now. Just this year pound the strike zone and being consistent within the strike zone and not let walks beat me as much and throw in some breaking balls for strikes every once and awhile can make a world of difference.”

Your feelings moving forward to next season? It’d be fun to get everybody back on board today and look forward to next season:

“Yeah it looks like we made some good additions already. Obviously signing Matt Kemp is huge getting him for being our cornerstone guy for eight more years. That’s pretty special. We got a new second baseman in Mark Ellis. I enjoy watching him play and if we get Hiroki Kuroda back we’re in good shape.”

Where does your sense of maturity come from at such a young age? Where did this confidence of “belonging” at such a young age come from?

“Well that’s the thing. You gotta believe you belong here. That’s something that when I was 20 [years old] I didn’t know if I understood right away, but I think it takes a little time to get comfortable early or at least for me it did. Now I think I am supposed to get people out. Now I expect to get people out. I expect to win every game I pitch and it takes a little bit for me at least. Last year it took all the way into 2008 – took a little bit of time. It’s good to be where I am at now and hopefully continue to progress from here.”

Who’s the toughest out in the National League?

“[Albert] Pujols. I still think he is the best. [Prince] Fielder is awesome. He is left handed though, so it’s little bit – I wouldn’t say easier, but a little bit more of an advantage being lefty-lefty and then you see Ryan Braun over in Milwaukee too. I am glad I don’t have to face Matt Kemp. He is probably the best I have seen, so it’s good I never have had to face him.”

Listen to Clayton Kershaw on KLAC in Los Angeles here

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