JETS COACH REX RYAN did a great job throwing out the first pitch before the opening game of yesterday's Padres-Mets, day-night, doubleheader. Just ask him.

"No lefthanded batter was going to touch my pitch," he said. "The movement is filthy, is how we'd have to put it."

Later, after the Jets practice, Ryan compared himself to Nationals' phenom Stephen Strasburg, using split-screen video of himself and the fireballer. "Two outstanding pitchers," Ryan said while watching the images.

Ryan said the biggest difference between the two was the catcher. Strasburg had Pudge Rodriguez. Ryan used Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. "Look at the movement of my catcher," Ryan said while watching his pitch sail out of the strike zone. "This clearly is a strike. I just need it framed up a little bit."

Ryan then - very tongue-in-cheek we might add - hinted he is superior to Strasburg.

"You'll see the form is not exactly where we want it," he said with a laugh, "but we've got to understand something: The kid is just a rookie."

Foul in any language

The Brazilian referee and his assistants who will work tomorrow's World Cup match between England and the United States have taken a crash course in obscene words and gestures.

We weren't there, of course, but we imagine it went something like this:

"Hello class. Welcome to Profanity 101. Today we'll review words that begin with the letter F."

Apparently, the "course" was triggered by trash-talking English star Wayne Rooney, who has been known to use words that would make Chase Utley blush. Earlier this week, Rooney got a yellow card for swearing at a referee in a meaningless warmup match. England captain Steven Gerrard said that can't happen at the World Cup.

"In this day and age, I think it's important to show the referees some respect," Gerrard told the Associated Press yesterday. "You don't use any language, because then you'll be booked and the whole team suffers. You don't want to fall into that trap. We've had experience of losing big players at important times."

- Tom Mahon