Back in Big Apple, Lo Duca May Feel Bite of Mets Fans

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Paul Lo Duca said he has "played it in my mind probably the last four months what's going to happen when I go there." Tonight at Shea Stadium in New York, he will find out how he is received by the fans of his former team, the New York Mets.

"I got a great last name, because if they're booing me, I could just say, 'They're saying Duke!' " Lo Duca said. "I don't know. I really don't know. It's going to be very interesting."

Lo Duca, who spent two seasons as the Mets' catcher, had an eventful offseason in which he signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Washington Nationals. He was, in essence, replaced in New York by former National Brian Schneider, who was traded to the Mets as part of a package for center fielder Lastings Milledge, who also faces an uncertain reception at Shea. Schneider is off to a fine start for the Mets, hitting .324 in 10 games and throwing out two of five would-be base stealers.

Lo Duca's offseason also included his prominent role in the report of former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Lo Duca also expressed disappointment with Mets management for not bringing him back. He reiterated over the weekend that his departure from New York makes every game against the Mets more important to him.

"I'd be lying to say no," Lo Duca said. "I want them to lose every game. That's nature."

Lo Duca, 36, is batting .200 and has failed to throw out any of five base stealers. He was hit by a pitch on the right hand in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves; his availability tonight is in question.

Lo Duca said he has no ill will toward his former teammates -- he said he is still close with first baseman Carlos Delgado and third baseman David Wright -- and that he is looking forward to seeing many of the Shea Stadium personnel, "the guys you became friends with a couple years."

And he paid homage to Mets fans.

"I owe a lot to them," Lo Duca said. "I've said that from Day One, and that's not a cliche. The fans in New York were awesome to me. I have nothing bad to say about them at all. They stuck behind me."

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