NO DOUBT, the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez is a great closer. But K-Rod (what an irritating nickname) goes through the same nonsense every time he records a save: He pounds his chest, points to the sky and screams like a guy who just stepped on a tack. He had 62 saves with the Angels last year. He has another 16 this year with the Mets. That's a lot of chest-pounding, sky-pointing and screaming.

So we have to give props to Yankees reliever Brian Bruney, who said what any Mets-loathing Phillies fan would say about K-Rod's theatrics.

K-Rod blew his first save of the season Friday after second baseman Luis Castillo dropped an embarrassingly routine pop fly. When asked about the play the next day, Bruney noted, "It couldn't happen to a better guy on the mound . . . He's got a tired act."

That little shot got back to K-Rod.

"He better keep his mouth shut and do his job and not worry about somebody else," K-Rod said after Saturday's 6-2 Mets win. "If it came out from somebody big, I might pay attention to it. But somebody like that, it doesn't bother me."

Well, it must have bothered him a little. Yesterday during batting practice at new Yankee Stadium, K-Rod ran out shouting and pointing at Bruney (no word on whether he was thumping his chest). Teammates had to separate them.

Bruney also said: "I just don't like watching the guy pitch. I think it's embarrassing."

We don't like watching the guy pitch either, Brian. That usually means the Phillies are losing.

More bickering

Whew, someone contact Dr. Phil. K-Rod is mad at Bruney, now Boston's Brad Penny is upset with Yanks skipper Joe Girardi. The manager accused the big righthander of intentionally plunking Alex Rodriguez in Thursday's game. Penny, of course, denied that he intentionally hit A-Rod (irritating nickname), said he had bigger things to worry about, and that Girardi should just shut his pie hole and manage the Yankees.

Fair enough, Girardi said yesterday.

"I just said I thought he hit Alex Rodriguez on purpose. I wasn't 100 percent sure and only Brad Penny knows." *

- Joe Berkery