Like Verlander, Kershaw could find a way to get even better in 2012

PHOENIX -- A few weeks back in Florida, Tigers people insisted to me that Justin Verlander is determined to be even better this year than he was last year.

"Is that possible? I don't know," pitching coach Jeff Jones said. "But it wouldn't surprise me to see him have a better year. It wouldn't surprise me at all."

So what about the other Cy Young winner?

"He knows he can be better," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Thursday, referring to Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw is still just 23 (he turns 24 on Monday), and he's not as established as Verlander, but Honeycutt said he sees that same drive to improve. He said that when he asked Kershaw how he would handle the banquet circuit after winning the Cy Young, Kershaw told him, "Don't worry, I'll still get my work in."

And how does a guy improve on a 21-5 season in which he threw 233 1/3 innings and led the league with 248 strikeouts (just two fewer than Verlander)?

Well, like Verlander, Kershaw's great season became near-unbelievable in the second half, when he was 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA and a 0.886 WHIP. So there's always that 3.03 first-half ERA.

And then there's the changeup.

"He still hasn't really mastered the changeup," Honeycutt said. "So there's another pitch in his repertoire."

Could he get better? Like Verlander, maybe he could, although Kershaw said he's not really thinking about it.

"I'm just trying to win games," he said. "I don't care about stats. Whatever the stats look like, that's fine. I'm just trying to win."

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