Lo Duca responds to Mitchell Report
Nationals catcher apologizes for 'mistakes in judgment'
VIERA, Fla. -- A few hours after putting out a statement about being named in the Mitchell Report, Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca spoke to the media and apologized for "mistakes in judgment."
The Mitchell Report, issued in December, claimed that Lo Duca purchased human growth hormone from Kirk Radomski, a clubhouse attendant for the Mets from 1985-95. The Report indicated that Lo Duca made these purchases as a member of the Dodgers and Marlins, for whom he played prior to joining the Mets in 2006.
The Mitchell Report also claimed that Lo Duca referred other players, such as former Dodgers pitchers Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne, to Radomski in order to purchase performance-enhancing drugs. Lo Duca, according to the Report, started using steroids when he was with the Albuquerque Dukes, a Dodgers affiliate.
With general manager Jim Bowden, manager Manny Acta and assistant general manager Bob Boone in attendance during the media session, Lo Duca, wearing an orange Nike shirt with black pants and black sneakers, acknowledged that former Sen. George Mitchell tried to speak with him about the Report, but Lo Duca declined to talk to him.
"I was asked to speak with him a while ago," Lo Duca said. "I respect what he has done. I respect that they are cleaning up the game. I'm 100 percent in favor of the Report. That's not a lie. I'm not saying it to say it."
Lo Duca started his media session by reading the same statement that he released early in the day.
"In regards to Senator Mitchell's report," Lo Duca said, "I apologize to my family, all my fans and to the entire baseball community for [the] mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distractions that resulted. I am fully committed to being the best player and person I can be, on and off the field, for the Washington Nationals and the entire baseball community.
"I recognize the importance of my role in the community as a professional athlete, and I intend to focus my energies on making a positive impact in that regard. So that I can focus on making positive contributions and avoid creating further distractions, I respectfully decline to comment any further on the content of the Mitchell Report."
Lo Duca never went into any more specifics in his written statement, except to say that he thought more about the fans when he wrote his apology. He wouldn't say if he would do public service announcements about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.
Asked why he waited until Saturday instead of saying something in December, Lo Duca said, "I had different things I wanted to focus on. The offseason is my offseason and when the baseball season started back up, I wanted to take care of the issue. ... Along with my agent, we thought today was the day to release it.
"It has been a big relief to me that I have come to grips with it, that I made a mistake. Today makes it even better for me to move on with my life and my career. And it's time to prove people wrong [on the field] because people are going to think otherwise. What people think about me off the field, that's their choice. There are some people I don't like and there are some people I do like in life itself, so my job is to win baseball games.
"I want to be known as someone who wins baseball games. If I rub somebody the wrong way, I rub them the wrong way."
The Nationals are not sure if Lo Duca will be suspended. Bowden acknowledged on Friday that the Commissioner's Office has the Lo Duca case under review. Lo Duca said he has not met with anyone in the Commissioner's Office yet.
"We support the Commissioner's Office 100 percent and the Players Association trying to rid our sport of the problems," Bowden said Friday. "I don't know the facts and the truth of the entire [Lo Duca] situation, so I'll leave it up to those people who know those things."
One person who would like to stop talking about Lo Duca's involvement in the Mitchell Report is Acta. The skipper said it's time to talk about the new season and baseball's greatest stars.
"I'm really kind of tired of it," Acta said. "I met Paul in New York, and Paul's a good person, a good teammate. He gives everything he's got on the field. All the other stuff, I didn't know about it. I'm glad he has apologized and admitted and he's not making excuses for him or anybody."
Lo Duca, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Washington last December, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to be back on the field by March 15. Lo Duca hurt the knee working out in a New York gym in January.
With the Mitchell Report over his head, it was tough for Lo Duca to call Bowden and tell him about the knee injury.
"It was tough," Lo Duca said. "I wanted to be ready. I want to be healthy for the whole year. I don't want to be healthy to catch 100 games. I want to catch a lot more than that."
Lo Duca hit .272 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs for New York last season.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.