Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers looks on from the dugout during a game against the San Francisco Giants on July 29, 2012.
Clayton Kershaw's two magnificent starts in the first week of the season are starting to look like big money in the bank for the Los Angeles Dodgers' lefthander.
The only question now is whether Kershaw, at the young age of barely 25, is en route to becoming the first $200 million pitcher in Major League Baseball history?
The worst kept secret surrounding the Dodgers is that the team is conducting some hush-hush negotiations with Kershaw's agent, Casey Close, which have dragged on for months.
The Dodgers have Kershaw under arbitration control through the 2014 season before he would be eligible for free agency, but the team's Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership has privately indicated a strong willingness to tie the team's ace to a long-term deal.
That much was obvious on Opening Day when Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter was among the first to greet Kershaw on the field after the game, leading the cheers and clapping with both hands raised above his head.
Kershaw had struck out seven without a walk and given up only four hits. He had dramatically homered to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth inning, becoming the first pitcher since Bob Lemon in 1953 to throw an opening-day shutout and hit a home run.
The Guggenheim owners, say insiders close to them, envision Kershaw as the face of the Dodgers over the next decade and a half -- a heroic role model almost too good to be true.
"In Clayton, they see a mixture of Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente," says the insider. "An incredible pitcher on a heroic scale and a humanitarian trying to make the world a better place.
"Central Casting couldn't make a better image."
Kershaw and his wife Ellen have spent their free time building orphanages in Africa, and last year the lefthander received the Roberto Clemente Award as the top humanitarian honor bestowed by Major League Baseball.
Before the start of spring training, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said that there was "mutual interest" in extending Kershaw's contract.
Kershaw will make $11 million this season in the final season of a two-year contract with the Dodgers, and the numbers being bandied about for him on the Internet are astronomical, given the contract extensions of for San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander.
Verlander's $180 million deal is the biggest ever for a pitcher, and some speculate that Kershaw's could wind up being even higher, all depending on the contract length.
Not bad for a Texas kid who grew up worrying about how he would ever have money for college.
No such worries, though, for Kershaw's heirs.