NEW YORK - Even though Carlos Delgado could easily take his 13 years of major league experience and coach someday, it isn't necessarily one of the top things on his "to-do" list.

But from watching the Mets' home opener against the Phillies Monday, it was hard to tell who was the pitching coach - Delgado or Rick Peterson.

While pitcher John Maine was struggling through a series of batters, walking six in 4 2/3 innings, the Mets first baseman calmly walked to the mound and exchanged a few words with Maine.

"I just basically told him to calm down," Delgado said. "I know [the coaches] have been working with him on being more consistent with his deliveries, so I noticed it and just wanted to let him know.

"Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to be a pitching coach or anything, but at the same time I hate to see one of my guys struggle."

It is that approach that helps the two-time All-Star command the attention and respect of his teammates. Keeping all 25 players focused, Delgado said, has been something he has taken pride in doing since he joining the Mets last season.

"Leadership is hard to explain," said Delgado. "It's not necessarily the loudest guy who yells and says, 'Do this and do that' more than it is someone who can lead by example."

So far, Delgado - who received the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006 for his outstanding play and work in the community - has done a perfect job of setting that example. Last year, as an integral part of the Mets' National League East title run, Delgado batted .265 with 38 homers and 114 RBI.

Mets manager Willie Randolph said Delgado's unassuming leadership and play - on and off the field - gives him a certain level of poise and confidence that rubs off on other players.

And he's not afraid to take chances either.

When the Phillies' infield overshifted in the second inning of Monday's game, Delgado bunted down the third baseline, much to the surprise of everyone in attendance.

"That was the first time I got a bunt down in my career," laughed Delgado, who was 0-for-3 with a walk in the Mets 5-2 loss to the Phillies last night. "I'm not very good at, so don't expect me to change my approach and become a bunter now."

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was equally surprised and once Delgado reached first, they had a few laughs about it.

"I said, 'You look like you know what you're doing,' " Howard said.

Maybe the Phillies would consider letting Howard, who is just 6-for-30 in the first eight games, lay down a bunt?

"I would suggest it to him at times. I know he can do it," said manager Charlie Manuel.

While nobody's expecting Howard to start bunting anytime soon, don't exactly count the chances out, either. After all, no one saw Delgado's coming.

"You never know," said Howard. "Have I practiced it? No. I've done it in a game before, in the minors. It worked." *