GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Sandy Koufax is confident that Clayton Kershaw won’t be remembered for his playoff struggles.
The 79-year-old Koufax was at the first full-squad workout for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, and the Hall of Famer said he was certain Kershaw would have success in future Octobers.
Kershaw, like Koufax, has won three Cy Young Awards. But Kershaw has lost four straight playoff starts, all to St. Louis in the last two years.
“I think he’ll be in a lot more postseasons and I think it’ll be totally turned around,” Koufax said. “The best pitcher in baseball is not going to let that happen to him, probably never again.”
The Cardinals twice tagged Kershaw in the 2013 NL Championship Series, then did it again in last year’s NL Division Series.
“If somebody had told me that anybody would beat Clayton twice in one series, I would have said ‘No way,'” Koufax said. “I probably would have cursed and then said ‘No way.’ But, you know, it happens.”
Kershaw is 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in the postseason. Koufax was 4-3 despite a sparkling 0.95 ERA, and twice was the World Series MVP for the Dodgers.
Kershaw, who has often been compared to Koufax, hinted early in camp that he is more motivated than ever to get beyond his postseason futility. In accepting the NL MVP at the baseball writers’ dinner in New York on Jan. 24, he concluded by thanking the Cardinals for reminding him “you’re never as good as you think are.”
Koufax applauded him for that line. But he also expects the 26-year-old Kershaw to approach the 2015 season the same way he’s always done.
“I think he always has that fire burning,” said Koufax, who plans to be in camp until their exhibition games begin Wednesday against the White Sox.
“He’s a great competitor. Will there be any extra? I hope not. Extra might destroy him,” he said.
“You can just go so far. One hundred percent will kill you, because there’s no room for thinking. You can go 99 percent. But you have to leave some room for the brain,” he said.
Koufax said he met new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and new general manager Farhan Zaidi for the first time Thursday.
Friedman and Zaidi have made several offseason changes, including deals for shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Philadelphia and second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels.
Friedman came from Tampa Bay, Zaidi from Oakland. Both are known for an analytic approach to building a roster.
“They’re analytic, but they’re listening to the players, managers and coaches,” said Koufax, who pointed out that analytics were introduced by an ex-player, A’s GM Billy Beane.
“Nobody makes mention of the fact that he was a player,” Koufax said. “So, he could see talent. If he didn’t like what he saw, you don’t sign him. I think it’s a combination of both.”
Koufax was encouraged by the acquisition of Rollins and Kendrick.
“I know of Rollins’ history from watching him,” Koufax said. “I know of Kendrick from watching him. Both are great players.”
Both also are seen as a way to improve the Dodgers defense.
“If you try to win with pitching, you’ve got to have good defense,” Koufax said. “Otherwise, you’re going to struggle.”
Koufax also hoped to see more improvement from Yasiel Puig, who was a 2014 All-Star in his second major league season. Koufax said he saw fewer mistakes from the flamboyant Puig last year than he did in the outfielder’s rookie season.
“He’s never played against talent his equal,” Koufax said. “So, he thought: OK, I’ll just keep running and they’ll screw it up.'”
“But it doesn’t happen that way up here. I think he’s learning that. He struggled late last year, but I didn’t think he made the same mistakes,” he said.
Koufax spent Thursday watching starter Zack Greinke, projected starter Brett Anderson and 18-year-old prospect Julio Urias work through a bullpen session.
“That’s the first interaction I’ve ever had with him,” said Anderson, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers on Dec. 31. “He came over and said positive things about my bullpen.”
“It’s not that major league pitchers need that. But the fact that it came from him is a big confidence booster. If that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, I don’t know what will,” he said.
NOTES: Starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu missed a second straight day of work with discomfort in his back. An MRI Wednesday was negative, manager Don Mattingly said. Ryu said he was suffering from spasms. He expects to be ready for the Dodgers’ Cactus League schedule.
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