The days of waiting for a Dodgers ace may be over.
As much as Stephen Strasburg is dominating the headlines, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers deserves our attention. In Clayton's case, it won't make much difference if he receives it now or later, but he will receive it.
The Dodgers as an organization have groomed this 2006 first-round draft pick perfectly. Easing his way into the majors, Joe Torre saw fit to keep the work load strictly within his current ability.
Where does his current ability stand?
Well, so far this spring, Clayton has spent time with Sandy Koufax (the same man Joe Torre compared him to) and the numbers are pointing to a strong start: 10 IP, 10 SO, 2 Wins, and a 1.80 ERA.
He is only 22 years old, and possibly is the treasure prospect on the entire staff.
His arsenal includes a 93-97 mph fastball, matched with the pitch Vin Scully has thoughtfully named Public Enemy No. 1, aka the curveball.
Also in progress are a pre-conditioned slider and change-up.
Last year was as valuable as it gets for a pitcher of Clayton's status. He surely built confidence by striking out 185 big-league hitters. It is no secret, however, that Kershaw walked far too many batters and was taken out early in many games. Being wild is not necessarily a bad thing early on, as pitchers such as Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and even Sandy Koufax showed later in their careers.
The south-paw started Game One of both the NLDS and the NLCS, and was shaky in both starts.
At such a young age, people stress about dealing with failure. Last year couldn’t have gotten better in that sense for Clayton.
He says he feels like he is prepared to have the reins taken off. Joe Torre says he will oblige.
This just may be the year that makes Clayton Kershaw the ace of the Dodgers staff, for a very long time.