NEW YORK -
hit 58 homers and was the National League's most valuable player last season.
But he's no Barry Bonds.
So said Mets manager Willie Randolph, who got burned by pitching to Howard with runners on second and third and first base open yesterday.
Howard responded with his first homer of the season, a three-run shot off righthander Ambiorix Burgos. The homer gave the Phils a 5-3 lead, which turned into an 11-5 loss in the later innings. For the season, Howard was 5 for 25 overall and 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position before the homer.
Randolph was asked about his decision to pitch to Howard.
"Why not?" he said. "He's hitting .200. Pat Burrell is a Mets killer. Sixth inning. I was short with [Aaron] Heilman not being in the bullpen. So I didn't want to burn two pitchers by bringing [Pedro] Feliciano and then [Joe] Smith. I trust Burgos in that spot. He made good pitches early in the count and then left one out over the plate and got hurt."
Randolph offered one other observation on Howard.
"It's not like he's Barry Bonds," he said.
Burrell had two hits yesterday and has hit .385 over the first six games. For his career, he is 108 for 420 (.257) with 36 homers and 92 RBIs against the Mets.
While Mets fans gave
an earful for his preseason "We're the team to beat" prognostication, Mets players have mostly let it roll off their backs.
"Anyone would do that," Billy Wagner said. "You don't come out and say, 'We're shooting for second place.' "
Wagner was asked why no one from the defending division champion Mets made that proclamation.
"It's just not how we do it," he said. "Some things are better not said. Just go out and play the games."
Howard might not be Barry Bonds, but he will appear on
The Late Show with David Letterman
tonight. . . . The Mets' new stadium, Citi Field, is rising quickly beyond the center-field wall at Shea Stadium. Girders and cranes have obscured the view of chop shops on the street outside the stadium.