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Lo Duca injures left knee

Paul Lo Duca, signed last month to a one-year, $5 million contract to be the Nationals' starting catcher, injured his left knee while working out earlier this week. He has been in touch with the Nationals' front office, including GM Jim Bowden, and is having an MRI exam on the knee today, taken with one of the Mets' doctors, Andrew Pearle. (Lo Duca played with the Mets last year.)

Lo Duca will then travel to Washington and be examined by Nationals orthopedist Ben Shaffer early next week.

The team is not providing much more information at this time, because they simply don't know the extent of the injury. But from what I've been able to gather, this isn't something devastating. It's not like he's hobbling around on crutches right now, and he won't wheel into spring training or anything like that. That said, the Nationals are taking the cautious approach to see if there's any damage in the knee that Lo Duca can't feel right now.

Interesting that this happened now as I was thinking about writing a Lo Duca post at some point this week. The Mitchell Report was released on Dec. 13, some six weeks ago. Lo Duca was a prominent character.

Since that point, Nationals President Stan Kasten has spoken about his feelings about the report, but he said any decision on how current Nationals - and Lo Duca is the only current National mentioned in the report - should handle their situations would be left to the individuals.

Lo Duca hasn't returned my phone calls, nor has he spoken publicly to anyone. His agent, Andrew Mongelluzzi, has not responded to repeated phone and e-mail messages. So we really have no idea how he's going to handle the situation, what part of the report's accusations he admits to (if any), etc. Remember: He wasn't just named. Over parts of four pages, the report details - in both the text of a personal note and a copy of a hand-written note - former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski's testimony that he "engaged in six or more transactions" with Lo Duca. Radomski also alleged to the Mitchell's investigative team that Lo Duca referred him to four other players.

The report says that Radomski sent performance-enhancing substances to Lo Duca's home and to the clubhouse of the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom Lo Duca played from 1998-2004. Lo Duca's name, address and telephone number were listed in the address book seized from Radomski's Long Island home in December 2005.

So we'll get word on Lo Duca's health early next week. There's no telling when we'll get word on his reaction to the report. But we know this: Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 15. We should know by then.

In other news, the Nats announced the signings of 12 of their "0-3" players (players with less than three years of major league service time who are on the 40-man roster), those who are not yet eligible for arbitration. They are: right-handers Jason Bergmann, Tyler Clippard, Enrique Gonzalez, Joel Hanrahan, Shawn Hill and Saul Rivera, lefty Matt Chico, outfielders Roger Bernadina, Elijah Dukes, Garrett Guzman and Justin Maxwell and catcher Jesus Flores.

That leaves three un-signed Nationals: arbitration-eligible Felipe Lopez and Jon Rauch and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Lopez's arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13 in St. Petersburg, Rauch's hearing Feb. 6, also in St. Petersburg. Those dates are pretty good because they're early in the process (neither will have reported to camp yet), so even if a settlement can't be reached - and there's definitely a chance they will - neither player will be distracted from spring training or miss any time. (Last year, Chad Cordero had to fly to Phoenix in the middle of camp for his hearing.)

Zimmerman, as was discussed a few posts ago, is not yet eligible for arbitration. Check out that post for news on his long-term negotiations (which aren't really serious for now).

One more thing I forgot: The Nationals promoted John Dever, who had been the director of baseball information, to senior director of baseball media relations, and they hired Mike Gazda as director of baseball media relations.

This stuff might not mean much to you, but these are important people for us beat hacks. Dever, a Syracuse grad who previously worked for the Padres, has been with the Nationals since the Montreal days. He's one of the few people left over from that regime (joining people like director of team travel Rob McDonald and assistant scouting director Brian Parker) who know exactly how chaotic it was to move from Montreal to Washington, etc. Dever reports directly to Jim Bowden and is responsible for things such as the media guide, game notes and facilitating the manager's media availability as well as one-on-one interviews with players if need be. It can be a tiring and thankless job, and Dever handles it well.

Gazda comes from the Florida Marlins, where he held a similar position, and replaces Mark Rogoff, who had served in that position (Dever's No. 2) for two seasons before leaving earlier this month for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gazda comes with an excellent reputation and was always helpful to me when he was with the Marlins.

For readers of NJ: Just keep in mind how many behind-the-scenes people that are involved to make a major league baseball team go. But they're essential: I deal with them almost every day. So in a way, so do you.

By Barry Svrluga  |  January 25, 2008; 3:28 PM ET
 
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