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Daily Dodger in review: Clayton Kershaw continues on path to superstardom

November 3, 2010 |  7:22 am

CLAYTON KERSHAW, 22, starting pitcher

Final 2010 stats: 13-10, 2.92 ERA, 212 strikeouts, 81 walks, 1.18 WHIP in 204 1/3 innings.

Contract status: Under team control.

The good: You could call 2010 a breakout year for Kershaw, although in reality it was just more of his previous season. You could even argue he was slightly better in 2009 (2.79 ERA, 9.74 strikeouts and 6.26 hits per nine innings) than last season (2.92, 9.34, 7.05). Still, Kershaw did nothing to disappoint, which considering how much of the Dodgers’ season went, is saying something. Even led the team with 18 sacrifice bunts.

The bad: Ah, give me a minute. Didn’t throw one of the major leagues' six no-hitters? OK, still had some trouble in the early innings (5.62 ERA in first, 4.02 in the second).

What’s next: Time to drop the pretense and call Kershaw what he really is -- the Dodgers’ ace. The Dodgers didn’t seem to want to place additional pressure on Kershaw last season, naming Vicente Padilla as their opening-day starter. I didn’t agree, but it was only his second full season in the majors, so I got it. He’ll turn 23 in spring training and entering his fourth season overall with the Dodgers. Now it’s time for him to be acknowledged -- and to develop the mind set -- as the team’s stopper.

The take: He’s young, left-handed, extremely talented, home grown and right on schedule. He’s a superstar in the making, the Dodgers’ answer to San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum (who’s four years older).

If he were not a starting pitcher who played only once every five days, he would be the face of the franchise. He may be yet.

As good as he’s been the last two seasons, his youth still leaves room for an impressive upswing. He’s starting to pitch deeper into games, though part of his early struggles here were partially due to management not wanting to push him as he learned to throw more innings.

No longer should he be babied or considered too young for anything. Ramon Martinez went 20-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 1990 as a 22-year-old. And right now, Kershaw looks like the best starter the Dodgers have developed since Martinez 20 years ago.

-- Steve Dilbeck