Prosecutors dropped a drunken driving charge against former baseball star Dwight Gooden yesterday, and he pleaded not guilty to fleeing an officer and a new charge of reckless driving after a traffic stop last month.

Gooden, 41, did not appear in court and entered a written plea. His attorney, Peter Hobson, said the new charge was not part of a plea agreement.

"We had no role, we did not participate in any way in that decision," he said.

Prosecutor Pam Bondi did not return phone messages seeking comment. Fleeing an officer is a felony, while reckless driving is a misdemeanor.

Tampa police said Gooden sped away after his BMW was pulled over for swerving and braking erratically on Aug. 22. Police said his breath smelled of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot, as he twice refused to get out of the car for a sobriety test.

At the time, he was out on bail on a charge of hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face during an argument. He turned himself in Aug. 25.

* PIAZZA EXPECTS TO PLAY: Mike Piazza is sure he has more baseball left in his banged-up body, and he hopes to prove it next year.

Recovering from a concussion and broken hand, the latest in a string of injuries to hamper him the past few years, the Mets catcher said he still wants to play next season -- even if it's not in New York.

"Everyone is assuming that I'm not going to be here next year, but I've never said anything either way," Piazza said before the Mets opened a three-game series against Washington. "I'm just going to finish as strong as I can."

The 37-year-old Piazza was still having some headaches after he was beaned Saturday night by St. Louis reliever Julian Tavarez and was not in the starting lineup against the Nationals.

Mets Manager Willie Randolph said Piazza was available to pinch hit, but he wanted to give him another day to recuperate.

"I feel all right," Piazza said. "I've been getting some headaches and stuff, it's probably to be expected, but I don't think it's anything more serious than that."

* MEANWHILE . . . : Nearly lost in the hoopla of Barry Bonds's return Monday night, Giants pinch hitter Justin Knoedler singled in the eighth inning for his first major league hit.

-- From News Services