Clayton Kershaw knows how good Matthew Stafford can be at the NFL level

Matthew Stafford, left, and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw attend the 2012 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
(Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

However rapid Clayton Kershaw’s rise to the majors, the 21-year-old left-hander thinks of himself as a late bloomer of sorts.

Kershaw wasn’t nearly as precocious as his more famous high school classmate, Matthew Stafford, the quarterback taken by the Detroit Lions with the first pick in last week’s NFL draft.

Word of Stafford’s talents had spread throughout suburban Dallas by the time he was in the seventh grade, according to Kershaw, who blocked for him at McCullough Middle School and as a freshman at Highland Park High.


“For a seventh-grade football team to be a predominantly passing team was unheard of,” Kershaw said. “His arm’s been special for a long time.”

Kershaw made the high school varsity baseball team as a freshman but didn’t start being recognized by college recruiters until the summer leading up to his junior year.

“I didn’t start growing until late,” Kershaw said.

While Stafford was being watched by representatives from “pretty much every college” as a high school sophomore in spring practice, Kershaw said he started being noticed mainly because he happened to be on the same travel team as two more highly-regarded pitchers, Jordan Walden and Shawn Tolleson.

Walden is a prospect in the Angels system; Tolleson, who Kershaw said was the best pitcher on the team, had arm trouble that caused his draft stock to fall and now pitches for Baylor University.

Kershaw’s goals were modest at the time.

“I wanted to get college paid for,” he said.

The Dodgers drafted him seventh overall in 2006.

Martin is into receivership

Russell Martin was too busy to spend much time talking about his batting slump. Why? He had to talk to Kershaw, his starting pitcher that day.

“His catching and his dealing with the pitchers, he’s really been consistent in that regard,” Manager Joe Torre said.


Torre went out of his way to compliment Martin on Thursday night, telling him that he was making a difference even though he hit .205 in April and was hitless in his last 13 at-bats of the month.

“The catching part of it is taking up most of his time,” Torre said. “He’s here when I get here and I’m here pretty early. He’s watching his videos, sitting with pitchers -- a lot of things that weren’t going on last year.”

That’s something Martin said he has forced himself to do this season. But he said he’s not trying to force anything in the batter’s box, even though he described himself as being too relaxed earlier in the season.

“I think I’m just not even thinking about it,” Martin said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I’m not going to get 12 hits in one day.”

Short hops

With baseball in Mexico shut down for a week because of concern about swine flu, the league game that was scheduled to be played at Dodger Stadium on May 16 has been postponed. The event is expected to be rescheduled and tickets already purchased will be honored on the new date. . . . Juan Pierre started in center field and batted ninth for the second time in three days. “If he’s going to be of use to us off the bench, we have to keep him involved,” said Torre, who sat right fielder Andre Ethier. Matt Kemp started in right. . . . Torre said he would decide by today whether struggling rookie James McDonald would stay in the rotation. Eric Milton and Shawn Estes, who are in triple-A Albuquerque, would be candidates to replace him if he’s dropped.