02/15/07 8:57 PM ET
Notes: No rush to extend Lo Duca
Veteran catcher's contract expires after 2007 season
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
Lo Duca, whose contract expires after the 2007 season, acknowledged he has reached the age when, typically, the skills of catchers begin to erode because of the demands of their jobs.
"But I promise I haven't lost a step," he said. "But I never had the other gear some guys have."
Or as he said described his running last season: "Closet wheels."
Lo Duca enjoyed his first season with the Mets. His performance contradicted the "book" on him -- that he tends to wear down in the second half. Indeed, he batted .338 after the All-Star break, the highest average in the big leagues in that period.
Lo Duca never took regular batting practice because of torn ligaments in his left thumb, suffered in late June. The ligaments have been repaired, and he says he is likely to resume taking normal batting practice -- "unless I stop hitting."
Men of the 60s: Jerry Koosman, Ed Lynch and Greg McMichael are the three most notable players to wear uniform No. 36 with the Mets. That will remain unchanged for the time being, because Scott Schoeneweis will remain unchanged, as well.
Signed by the Mets as a free agent last month, Schoeneweis was assigned No. 36, but he already has opted back to No. 60, the number he has worn since his debut with the Angels in 1999.
If Chan Ho Park makes the team, the Mets will have a 60 and a 61. No player has worn No. 60 for the Mets in the big-league game, and only three -- outfielder Jeff Duncan, infielder Mario Ramirez and Jesse Orosco (in the first of his big-league record 1,252 appearances, in 1979) -- wore No. 61.
Man of the 70s: Attributing some of Jose Reyes' more patient approach at the plate to the counseling of Rickey Henderson last spring, the Mets have brought the game's all-time stolen base leader to Spring Training this year, as well. The club announced its plans for Henderson on Thursday when it announced that Ozzie Virgil Sr., the one-time New York Giant, also would serve as a Spring Training instructor.
Henderson, 48, was born in 1957 after Virgil, now 73, completed his third season in the big leagues. Virgil played with the Giants in 1956 and 1957 and, in '58, became the first minority to play with the Tigers.
Virgil coached with the San Francisco Giants from 1969-72 and from 1974-75, the Expos from 1976-81, the Padres from 1982-85 and the Mariners in 1987-88. From 1987-97, he was an instructor with the Giants' and Angels' academies in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he appeared in 324 games with the Giants -- New York and San Francisco -- Tigers, Royals, Orioles and Pirates, retiring in 1969.
The clubhouse humorists had the Mets bringing him in so that Julio Franco would have a contemporary in camp.
A raise for 17: Some people favor retiring uniform No. 17 for Keith Hernandez, already inducted to the Mets Hall of Fame and now one of club's color commentators. Since Hernandez left the Mets following the 1989 season, his number has been worn by a succession of borderline players, except for David Cone, Bret Saberhagen and Kevin Appier.
Now the number has been assigned to David Newhan, who isn't a high-profile player but, according to Minaya, "plays the game right" as Hernandez did.
Trachs at Camden Yards: Steve Trachsel reported to Orioles camp Thursday and had this to say about his baseball experiences of the last six seasons: "Actually, I loved playing in New York. It was great. I think there are distractions no matter where you play. The key is to manage them and not to let them affect what goes on on the field, do whatever you have to do to make them not be distractions.
"I don't listen to the sports radio shows or read the newspapers. So much of it is not close to what is really going on, it's not even worth paying attention to."
Wide open spaces: Thirteen Mets -- manager Willie Randolph and 12 players -- need not search for spaces in the parking lot here. There are assigned spots for Carlos Beltran, Franco, Carlos Delgado, Tom Glavine, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, Lo Duca, Shawn Green, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jose Valentin and Pedro Martinez.
Martinez has the shortest walk to the clubhouse.
Aaron Heilman has the longest face.
"I've already told [equipment manager Charlie Samuels]," Heilman said. "Everyone whose been here and some guys who haven't have spots."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.