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Can we dispense with the patient approach and ask greatness of Clayton Kershaw right now?

June 14, 2010 |  1:18 pm
While in my admittedly overly excited hurry for Clayton Kershaw to become the best left-hander in baseball, something interesting has been going in his last seven games:

He’s 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA.

Look, I’ve confessed to wanting him up there with Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia yesterday, but it’s not like he isn’t knocking at the door right now. And it’s not like he doesn’t have the same electric stuff.

Yet someone like Stephen Strasburg comes along and, while admittedly he has had a mind-boggling debut, it’s permissible for everyone to go gaga.

Off-the-chart expectations can be risky, but sometimes are justified.

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre has seen his share of special prospects during his 44 years in major league baseball, and clearly prefers the cautious approach.

"You try not to expect it, then if he exceeds expectations, all the better," Torre said. "Unfortunately, maybe a month of watching somebody excites you, and all of sudden you’re starting to pencil somebody in to do this or that, and I think it’s unfair."

The thing about Kershaw is he’s only 22 but still throws too many pitches. Still, this is his third major-league season (Strasberg turns 22 next month).

"Last year, he took on a lot of responsibility," Torre said. "He didn’t shy away from it.

"This year, we counted on him being one of our starters, but anytime someone asked about him leading the staff, my answer was always he wouldn’t be afraid to but it’s not fair to ask him to right now.’’

You never know if you don’t ask, if you don’t put him in that position, give him that recognition.

He’s already looking, and acting, like a pitcher maturing and developing into elite status.

"He’s grown, he really has," Torre said. "That first year he was up and down a couple times. Last year, he got whacked around that one game, and he got my attention how he bounced back the next game.’’

Last year on April 26, Kershaw gave up nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. In his next start, he did not allow a run in seven innings against the Padres.

He’s on the cusp of greatness. Asking him to be great doesn’t seem out of line. Leaders are often born of necessity. And the Dodgers’ rotation still needs an ace, its leader.

Placing that on Kershaw might prove less a burden than a final push to greatness.

-- Steve Dilbeck
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