2006-02-17 / Sports

Mets’Lo Duca Knows Hard Work Is In Order

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

As Spring Training opens, one new Met will have his work cut out for him as he tries to get ready for opening day.

Catcher Paul Lo Duca will not only have to get himself in shape to play, but he will have to learn a whole new pitching staff, which he has never caught before.

“It will be a new chapter,” Lo Duca said a few weeks ago during the Mets winter caravan. “Hopefully by opening day I will know them we have a long time in Spring Training to get to know each other and I hope we will be ready.”

The former Florida Marlin is expected to come in and be an important piece of the puzzle. Though he won’t have the impact of Mike Piazza, Lo Duca is a capable catcher, who hit .283 with six home runs and 57 RBI. Because he is able to make contact, the 33 year-old will probably start off the season as the No. 2 batter in Willie Randolph’s lineup.

But, with David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd batting behind him, Lo Duca will be looked upon to manage the pitching staff, which is something he is more than capable of doing.

Explaining his philosophy for calling a game, the catcher said, “Certain pitchers have two or three pitches and one may be working, so you may want to stick with that. It’s a gut feeling and I run with a gut feeling when I call the game with my pitcher. I rather my pitcher throw a pitch with conviction rather than I call a pitch he doesn’t want to throw.”

That’s what the Mets are hoping for from a player who spent the first few years of his life in Brooklyn. He moved to Arizona at the age of two, and though he still has relatives in Kings County he may need a map to get around.

“I know it a little a bit not great,” he said. “I know Brooklyn better than any other place, but I am not fully familiar.” It will be a matter of time, he learns the city directions, but right now Lo Duca is pumped to be with the Mets.

“I am excited to come here since it was the team I rooted for as a kid,” Lo Duca said. “And especially with the team they put together, it’s going to be a fun year.”

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