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'He's addicted to winning': Clayton Kershaw's battle to remain elite

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It was the onset of spring training in 2015, Andrew Friedman's first as the Los Angeles Dodgers' president of baseball operations. "Player plan" meetings -- basically, an analytics session with players, coaches and executives -- were being held. They were mostly for the rookies, but accomplished veterans were included so the message would resonate.

The focus turned to Clayton Kershaw, fresh off winning an MVP award and widely considered darn near impeccable. A member of the Dodgers' front office brought up the consistently low swing rate on Kershaw's curveball and began talking about how the three-time Cy Young Award winner could use it as a way to get back into counts. Then Friedman heard a recognizable voice in a tone he hadn't yet experienced.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

"Never gonna happen," Kershaw spat.

Up until then, Friedman had exchanged only pleasantries with Kershaw. He seemed friendly. Warm, even.4

"That," Friedman said, "was my first indoctrination into Dominant Pitcher Clayton Kershaw."

And so began the task of transitioning Kershaw into the next phase of his career, one complicated by a balky back and a slower fastball. Kershaw is a noticeably different pitcher now, in the late stages of an 11th season that, if he opts out of his contract, could be his last before free agency.

His fastball velocity has dipped into the low 90s, and his slider has taken on the characteristics of a cutter. But he is still recording outs at a dominant rate, with an ERA (2.42) and WHIP (0.98) that rank seventh among those with at least 130 innings. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts credited Kershaw's "open-mindedness to information," but he couldn't help but laugh about the "long process" of getting Kershaw there.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

"Clayton, he's not an easy sell," Roberts said. "The results have got to be there to support the why, and that's still not always enough. There's definitely some spirited debates with Clayton, which are always fun."

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