Clayton Kershaw is a quiet, unassuming, 22-year-old from Dallas, Texas, who also owns a 95 mile-per-hour fastball.
This alone doesn’t make the Dodgers’ left-hander special. What does is that he can get batters out with three other pitches.
The old saying about potential rubs both ways for a young athlete. It means that a team firmly believes there’s a lot to come. But unless it’s tapped and fulfilled, then it doesn’t mean anything.
Legendary Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully recently said having the tools doesn’t always translate into success. Having the tools is one thing. Using them is something else.
If you measure a pitcher by height and weight, Kershaw, at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, is the perfect specimen.
The Dodgers have won seven games in a row after sweeping San Diego at Petco Park this past weekend, and are two games behind the Padres in the National League West.
Kershaw’s effort on Saturday night was enough to make pitching coach Rick Honeycutt salivate.
After allowing a run in the first inning, he gathered himself and worked seven brilliant innings. In that time, Kershaw struck out seven, walked two, gave up three hits, and one run as the Dodgers notched a 4-1 win.
Of course, Kershaw used the fastball, but also threw in the slider, curveball and changeup.
You’re a batter, and you have to make a decision in a matter of seconds. Do I let the ball go, or do I swing? It’s not a fun situation to be in.
That’s what it’s like to face Kershaw, who has started 59 games in the big leagues, and sports a 16-15 record.
This season, Kershaw has gone at least six innings in five of his eight starts, and has fanned 52 batters, with 29 walks in nearly 46 innings.
His high in strikeouts is nine, which he accomplished in a 2-0 win over Colorado, and in a no-decision against San Francisco, which the Dodgers eventually won 2-1.
The thing to keep in mind is that Kershaw, who has a 3.55 earned-run average so far, just turned 22 in March, and is really only getting his feet wet.
Most major league scouts knew of Kershaw’s talent, so it wasn’t surprising that the Dodgers selected him with the seventh pick in the 2006 amateur draft after a terrific career at Highland Park High.
In three years at the minor league level that ranged from Rookie, Class A and Double A, Kershaw posted a 12-10 record with a 2.49 ERA, while striking out 276 and walking 91.
Kershaw’s first professional experience was in the Gulf Coast League, which is Rookie, and where he went 2-0, with a 1.95 ERA. He fanned 54 and walked five.
Kershaw was then off to A-ball in the Midwest League, where he went 7-5, with a 2.77 ERA. At that level, he fanned 134 and walked 50.
The next step was Double A in the Southern League, where he compiled a 1-2 mark, with a 3.65 ERA, and 29 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Kershaw returned to that same level the following season, and finished 2-3, but had a fine 1.91 ERA, along with 59 strikeouts and 19 walks.
Youth will be served. The Dodgers are counting on Kershaw, the young man with the toothy grin and easy disposition. Truly, the sky’s the limit.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.