Lo Duca Looks to Future
Catcher Paul Lo Duca, who was so distressed about being sent to the minor leagues two years ago that he nearly quit baseball, signed a three-year, $7.25-million contract Tuesday, cementing his immediate future with the Dodgers and burying a sometimes-painful past.
“There were a couple of times I thought I would shut it down and go home,” said Lo Duca, who was demoted to triple-A Albuquerque to back up catcher Angel Pena to start the 2000 season. “My dad asked me if I wanted to go home and wash dishes [at his Phoenix restaurant]. To be honest with you, I didn’t want to be here at one time. Now, I want to be here forever.”
Last season changed everything. Lo Duca, who spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, won a starting job in spring training and had a breakthrough season, batting a team-high .320 with 25 home runs, 28 doubles and 90 runs batted in despite missing 37 games.
He hit .379 with runners in scoring position and he was the third-hardest batter to fan in the NL with 30 strikeouts in 460 at-bats.
Though he hit .300 or better in five of his first six professional seasons, Lo Duca’s career seemed stalled at triple A in 2000. He even asked to be traded that year.
“This is really hard to fathom right now, considering where I was at a few years ago,” Lo Duca, 29, said.
“Now, the million-dollar question is, can I do it again this year?”
Lo Duca will be guaranteed $380,000 this season, $2.5 million in 2003 and $4 million in 2004, and his contract eliminates two of his three arbitration years.
Left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii will not pitch in a Grapefruit League game until the second week of March because the Dodgers want to do everything they can to simulate Ishii’s spring-training experience in Japan.
Japanese teams train for two months, but they have only 20 exhibition games before starting the regular season.
Major league teams train for six weeks but play about 30 exhibition games.
Pitching coach Jim Colborn, who spent four years as a coach for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, said Ishii will throw batting practice or a simulated game around March 6-8 and then make five exhibition starts before the regular season.
Longtime Dodger team physician Dr. Frank Jobe underwent coronary artery bypass graft surgery Tuesday at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. He is scheduled to remain in the hospital for several days.... Right-hander Andy Ashby, who is recovering from elbow surgery, threw 60 pitches during a bullpen workout Tuesday, mixing in split-fingered fastballs for the first time this spring. Though he experienced a little shoulder tightness, which he said is normal, and had trouble finding a consistent rhythm, Ashby was pleased with his progress.... Texas running back Cedric Benson, the Big 12 Conference offensive freshman of the year last season and a 12th-round pick of the Dodgers last June, will play about 21/2 months for a Dodger minor league team this summer before returning to college for football practice.
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