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Kershaw aims to add ring to trophy collection

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- How good is Clayton Kershaw? He won his second Cy Young Award last year at age 25, and Sandy Koufax won his at age 29.

Denny McLain was 25 when he won his second Cy Young. He won three games the next year and never more than 10 in a season afterward. McLain also won a World Series.

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Roger Clemens was 24 when he won his second Cy Young, and he went on to win five more. Clemens won a pair of World Series titles.

Tim Lincecum was 25 when he won his second consecutive Cy Young in 2009, and he's had one season with a winning record since. Lincecum, though, also has been on two World Series winners.

Where does Kershaw go from here? Koufax was on four World Series winners, so there's that.

"I had nine losses last year," Kershaw said. "I'll try not to lose nine games, I guess. If we could win all 33 games I start, as long as the team wins, it doesn't matter. I'd be happy with that."

"I've heard him say a perfect year for him would be if the team won every start he made and then won the World Series," catcher A.J. Ellis said.

After Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award in 2011, he didn't exactly rest on his laurels. The next year, he finished second, and the next year he won it again.

That's Kershaw. But there's still a hole in the resume, as he pointed out when asked if he appreciates the immensity of two Cy Young Awards at age 25.

"I don't take it for granted and it's a very cool thing," he said, "but I'd trade it for a World Series ring. That's where I think we're headed and [that's] why I'm excited. A lot's got to happen, but at least I know we've got a good chance."

They had a good chance last year, a season that ended in disappointment with a blowout 9-0 loss in St. Louis. Kershaw started that Game 6 of the NL Championship Series. He was undermined by an offense that didn't score and a pair of misguided Yasiel Puig throws that made the score worse than it needed to be.

"We had a great year as a team," Kershaw said. "Had a ton of fun, but I'm not satisfied. It's always tough to end the season with a loss like that. I try not to think like that, but at the end of the day, we lost that game. I'm not dwelling on it, but it does put a damper on the season."

This spring, he came to camp with $215 million more than last time, but the record-shattering contract extension hasn't seemed to change him. "He's a very rare person," said Rick Honeycutt, the only pitching coach Kershaw has had with the Dodgers. "On and off the field, he has his priorities in order. You always want your guys doing well and going through the system and getting to the big leagues, and, obviously, he's off the charts, taking it to a different level.

"I think the person inside just wants to keep getting better. You see it in the work ethic, the mental approach, day in and day out. It's like we tell the guys, and they can see it with him, you get out what you put in. He's all in. He's that kind of guy. Very few can back it up every year, but he's prepared himself to leave it all on the field. It's human nature to be satisfied when you get to a certain point. What separates the great ones is that they aren't satisfied."

Honeycutt has seen Kershaw mature as an elite pitcher, seen him incorporate a slider almost overnight into a nasty out pitch, seen him meld pitching savvy beyond his years with the sheer power of his youth.

"What we're seeing now is he's making in-game adjustments," Honeycutt said. "Plenty of times you hear him say he didn't have his fastball, but he throws seven innings with one run on four hits. He's learned it's not just straight power, but it's strength of mind that's the separation."

Honeycutt said the money won't change Kershaw.

"He's just a different guy, with his perspective on life and willingness to help others," said Honeycutt. "Last year, going through the negotiations, he never let it affect him. He keeps everything simple."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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