Don Baylor of the Oakland Athletics blasted pitcher Jay Howell of the Los Angeles Dodgers, saying the reliever couldn't handle pressure. "I know, I played with him," Baylor said.

"What's he ever done? He couldn't save games over here (with Oakland), so they got rid of him. We want him in the game all right," Baylor said in remarks published in Friday's editions of the San Jose Mercury News."He was right where he wanted to be in Games 4 and 5 at New York. He didn't want to be pitching with all the people screaming at him. He can't handle that. He couldn't handle it when he was in New York with the Yankees. I know, I played with him."

Howell was at the center of controversy during the National League playoffs. New York Mets pitcher David Cone said Howell reminded him "of a high-school pitcher." Howell was ejected from Game 3 for having pine tar on his glove and was suspended for Games 4 and 5 by National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti.

"I said it and I stand by it," Baylor said Friday. "It started as something innocent and I hoped it would stay that way. But if he wants to slap, I'll slap back."

Howell was cautious in his reponse.

"Just because Don Baylor says something about me doesn't mean I have to say something about Don Baylor," he said Friday at the Dodgers' workout. "I think he's a class guy. Don can say anything he wants about anybody. I just don't think it necessitates a comment from me."

Howell, traded from the Athletics to the Dodgers last December in a three-way deal with the Mets, was booed by A's fans last season when he was introduced before the All-Star Game at the Oakland Coliseum. He had earned 14 saves in his first 15 opportunities but slumped badly after injuring his right elbow.

Some Dodgers welcomed the renewed controversy.

"They can say whatever they want," infielder Mickey Hatcher said. "If they want to light our fire, let 'em go ahead. We feed off publicity like that."

Oakland manager Tony La Russa said he had't spoken to Baylor. He called the remarks "total baloney" and said he'd told Howell the same thing Friday.

"We're going to try to keep him (Howell) out of the game, just like we would with any outstanding closer," he said. "We don't believe in talking, we believe in playing."