Clayton Kershaw: Is it too soon to expect greatness?
The kid has completed one full season in the major leagues, but already hopes are pinned on him to follow in the steps of Koufax, Valenzuela and Hershiser.
A large part of those expectations is based simply on his incredible talent and easy-going demeanor, but part is simple necessity.
There is no ace in the Dodgers rotation. No obvious stopper, no one to send dread into the opposing clubhouse as soon as scheduled series rotations are announced.
But no one doubts that Kershaw could become that pitcher. That he could reach greatness.
Rather lofty for a kid whose career record is 13-13.
Yet make no mistake, everyone in the organization, every teammate, every fan, has seen his remarkable potential. Kershaw oozes talent.
If he screams possible stardom, he screams it from a body that has made a total of 51 regular-season starts. This is a guy who just got his first major league win on July 27, 2008. Patience is still demanded.
Last year despite his 8-8 record, he showed considerable brilliance, striking out 185 in 171 innings and finishing the season with an outstanding 2.79 ERA.
It doesn’t seem fair that so much is expected of someone so young, but that is the traditional burden of special players.
The Dodgers will not count on Kershaw to become one of the National League’s dominant pitchers this season. They'll still watch him closely, monitor his innings, try to be smart.
And quietly hope he emerges as a superstar.
Photo: Clayton Kershaw, right, talks with Manager Joe Torre during Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Oct. 15. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times