The Dodgers' ace has pitched well this season, but Manager Don Mattingly says Kershaw 'expects so much out of himself' that at times he doesn't look as if he's having fun.
By L.A. TIMES FS West
OAKLAND — There's a side effect that comes with winning the Cy Young Award: dealing with its lofty expectations afterward.
Clayton Kershaw won the award in the National League last year, and although he's having a reasonably good season in 2012, Kershaw has "seemed frustrated at times this year," Manager Don Mattingly said.
Kershaw pitched well again Thursday in the Dodgers' 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. The left-hander gave up one run and struck out seven in eight innings, leaving with no decision.
He remained 5-3 with an earned-run average of 2.73, and Mattingly said he looked "as good as he's been all year."
Before the game, Mattingly said that Kershaw, 24, "expects so much out of himself" and that he had talked with his pitcher about those expectations.
"He puts so much pressure on himself to be really good," Mattingly said. "He seems frustrated sometimes, like he's not having any fun."
Mattingly said there's also a public perception in some quarters that "because he won the Cy Young, every time he doesn't throw a two-hit shutout, it's like, what's wrong with Clayton?"
"He goes from that kid who's making the minimum [salary] and everything is great to now he's expected to go win 20 [games] every year and, if he doesn't, what's wrong?" Mattingly said. "That's part of it and that's OK, he'll be fine with it. It's a little bit of a learning curve."
Kershaw, who was 21-5 last season, said "if you're not winning and you're not pitching up to your expectations, there's going to be a little frustration there.
"I definitely want to try to have fun with the game too, because it's a fun game and we're fortunate enough to get to play it," Kershaw said. "To strike that balance, for sure you've got to be able to do that."
Looking at Kershaw's pitching, Mattingly said that "the slider — he hasn't been quite as sharp with it" lately and that opposing batters had made adjustments to the pitch.
"They're doing a better job of not swinging at it, so he's got to make adjustments" in turn, Mattingly said of Kershaw.
In the game Thursday, Kershaw picked off Oakland's Coco Crisp at first base in the first inning. It was Kershaw's fifth pickoff of the season.
Andre Ethier was 0 for 3 and is batting .171 in June. ... First baseman James Loney woke up sick Thursday and did not arrive at the ballpark until game time. ... Matt Kemp (left hamstring) and Mark Ellis (left leg surgery) practiced sprinting from home plate to first base before the game. ... Pitcher Chris Reed of double-A Chattanooga (Tenn.), the Dodgers' top draft pick last year, was named to the roster for theAll-Star Futures game, which features top minor league prospects, on July 8 in Kansas City. ... The Dodgers said they've signed 28 of their 41 draft picks from this year.