Dodgers are in a mound of trouble with starting rotation

I’m hoping Manny is spending this extra time, while waiting to sign with the Dodgers, working on his pitching.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told us back in early December the team was going to take it slow in free agency, wait for bargains in spring training and then again at the trading deadline.

But I had no idea the plan was to make the team appear worse than last year’s outfit.

The Dodgers need Manny desperately now for diversion, given a pitching staff that stinks, but what difference will he make at the plate if Mutt & Jeff, and yes I’m referring to Weaver, are pitching?

Last season, Joe Torre placed good pitching over hitting, and that will teach Torre to go on a book tour -- no one now paying attention to the guy who is going to run himself ragged walking out to the mound.


The Dodgers should have held on to Brad Penny rather than getting angry at him -- especially knowing their strategy is take advantage of the trading deadline.

Penny told’s Tim Brown that Larry Bowa was not in his corner, Bowa confirming it to our Dylan Hernandez and giving it to Penny like he might an umpire.

But Bowa’s wrong on this one. Bowa didn’t think Penny was tough enough, and almost everyone in baseball isn’t as tough as Bowa.

Penny favored his arm because it’s his livelihood. Bowa and several other coaches expected Penny to push past the pain because it’s their livelihood.

But right now who would you rather have trying to crack the starting rotation? Weaver, Eric Milton, Shawn Estes or Penny?

Even Manny understands the value of good pitching. Last season he had the same question every day after asking where he might be next season: “When’s Big Brown coming back?”

Big Brown was the team’s nickname for Penny, who owns horses, and Manny said the playoffs would come down to pitching.

This year the Dodgers’ choice for opening day starter is a guy coming off a broken leg or another coming off a sore shoulder. At last they won’t have to worry about pitching come the playoffs.

In the meantime, though, it’d be nice to know how effective Manny might be out of the stretch.

HAD A meeting with Lamar Odom in New York, maybe more a scolding than just a meeting, and ever since he has been playing as instructed.

“Thanks, Coach Simers,” he said before Tuesday’s game, and I have no idea why they’re paying Phil Jackson so much.

Go back to the beginning with the Clippers, and I thought Odom had what it took to be one of the game’s five best players. Tough argument to make while playing so inconsistently, but we revisited that argument in New York when I ordered him to shoot more.

In the first 44 games, Odom has averaged eight shots a game. In his last five, he’s taken more than 14 a game, and by most accounts, he isn’t the same player.

By the time I’m done with him, I’ll have the free-agent-to-be playing so well, the Lakers won’t be able to afford to sign him.

I’M WORRIED about the reputation of the Orange County-based media strategy company hired by A-Rod after his wriggling, wormy, less-than accountable performance Tuesday.

He began reading from a statement, leaving everyone to guess whether agent Scott Boras, his William Morris Agency manager or a media strategist from Newport Beach wrote it.

Instead of opening, “What do you want to know -- ask me anything,” he slithered here and there. The obvious strategy now is to have fans turn their dissatisfaction on the media, saying, “He’s apologized, leave the guy alone.”

As A-Rod would tell you, he’s paid the price, and with the proper training, it can probably be done without cracking a smile.

BIG-TIME congrats to Suns Coach Alvin Gentry, getting a second chance to be a head coach in the NBA after getting undercut by Elgin Baylor in his previous stint with the Clippers.

His first game back: a 40-point romp over the Clippers.

I’M DOING my best to follow this Beckham saga, Anschutz Empire honcho Tim Leiweke assuring Page 2 in a Jan. 28 column, “We have a contract, we have a handshake, his kids go to school here, end of story. There is no story. He’s going to return to the Galaxy.”

Then I read Grahame Jones’ report on Feb. 14, Italy failing to meet a contract deadline to keep Beckham, and why is there a deadline when “there is no story?”

Beckham “will be back here on March 9,” Leiweke tells Jones, “that’s the last we’re going to talk about this.”

Two days later, Jones reports on the Fabulous Forum: “An agreement that would see David Beckham move from the Galaxy to AC Milan on a permanent basis could be hammered out as early as the coming weekend.”

For “no story,” this one never seems to end.

KIDDY UP, better known as “Schmidt” because he’s always injured, returns to the Los Alamitos Race Track on Friday. Page 2 owns the nose of Schmidt, Ed Allred the rest.

Allred donated $50,000 to sick kids, and has pledged to do so again, obviously knowing there’s little chance the horse will stay healthy. It will be interesting this year, though, to see who makes more starts? Kiddy Up or Jason Schmidt?

TODAY’S LAST word comes in e-mail from Paul Weller:

“You’re going from the dog show in New York to Salma? Whatever happened to sports? And on Salma, you think she’s great looking? You’re a party of one on that score, T.J. She’s not a great beauty -- just brown eyes and curly black hair with an average figure. And you like that? Unreal.”

Remember, some people love the Clippers.