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Wednesday, January 10, 2007
New Blue Jay Thomson rips Lo Duca's catching

Associated Press

TORONTO -- John Thomson was surprisingly candid Wednesday about one of the reasons he chose the Toronto Blue Jays over the Mets: He didn't want to pitch to New York catcher Paul Lo Duca.

Paul Lo Duca
Lo Duca
John Thomson
Thomson

Thomson agreed to a $500,000, one-year contract with the Blue Jays on Tuesday and will get a chance to win a spot in their rotation during spring training. The right-hander said the Mets also offered a major league deal, but he wasn't interested.

"As far as just looking at Paul Lo Duca across the field, I'm not really into how he acts behind the plate," Thomson said on a conference call. "I know a bit about [Toronto catcher] Gregg Zaun and I know he wants to win and he's not going to let anything get in his way to do that, and I like that.

"And then with Vernon Wells in center field, I'm not really concerned about the outfield with him out there. ... Just watching the Mets' outfield, if Cliff Floyd is still there it's not a real good fit for him out there. He can hit the ball, but as far as defense, he's a little shaky.

"I just liked what's happening in Toronto."

Floyd is a free agent and almost certainly won't be back with the Mets next season.

Thomson pitched for the Mets in 2002, going 2-6 with a 4.31 ERA in nine starts. Lo Duca and Floyd weren't with New York at the time.

Thomson said the Mets initially offered a minor league deal before offering him a major league contract. He said Toronto offered more money in performance bonuses, but that wasn't a factor.

Thomson will get $1.5 million if he makes the Opening Day roster. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said Thomson can earn as much as $4 million based on how many starts he makes. Thomson went 2-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 18 games, including 15 starts, for the Atlanta Braves last season.

"As far as just looking at Paul Lo Duca across the field, I'm not really into how he acts behind the plate."
-- John Thomson

The 33-year-old Thomson pitched only 80 1/3 innings in 2006 because of mild fraying in his right shoulder and blister problems on his throwing hand.

"Everybody else I was talking to was offering minor league deals," said Thomson, whose last two seasons have been marred by injury.

"A bunch of the teams were kind of leery about signing me because of my shoulder problem that I had last year at the end of the season. As of right now it's fine. It was fine at the end of last year. There's nothing structurally wrong. I didn't have to have surgery on it."

He asked Braves manager Bobby Cox to pitch in late September so he could he prove his health.

"It was very important," Thomson said. "I sat down and said, 'Bobby, look, I'd like to get into a game toward the end of the season."'

Thomson pitched a scoreless inning against the Mets on Sept. 27 with Atlanta leading 13-1 in the ninth -- his first appearance since July 9.

"I threw nine pitches. I threw eight strikes and I got three outs so I was pretty happy," Thomson said.

He said he's been told his spot in the rotation is his to lose in spring training. He'll compete with Josh Towers, Casey Janssen and Shaun Marcum for the two open slots behind ace Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin.

Thomson went 14-8 with a 3.72 ERA with Atlanta in 2004. He is 62-84 with a 4.69 ERA in 214 career games (210 starts) spanning nine major league seasons. He also has pitched for Colorado and Texas.