Lo Duca seeking contract extension with Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca is completely healthy following offseason thumb surgery -- and he would love a contract extension.

"I've been vocal that I want to stay here," the four-time All-Star said Thursday after reporting to spring training.

Lo Duca, who will turn 35 in April, is entering the final season of a three-year deal that will pay him $6.25 million this season. He hit a team-leading .318 last year with five home runs and 49 RBIs, helping New York win the NL East for the first time since 1988.

But some of his most important contributions came as a clubhouse leader and a steady presence behind the plate. Lo Duca helped an injury-depleted pitching staff compile the third-best ERA (4.14) in the league.

All that while hampered for much of the season by a painfully sore left thumb, which he doesn't expect to cause any problems this spring.

"The hand's fine," Lo Duca said. "I played catch a couple times and it was fine."

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said he's been in contact with Lo Duca and planned to discuss a possible contract extension with him during spring training.

"I told him I would sit down and talk with him and listen to what he has to say," Minaya said.

Lo Duca would prefer not to let talks drag into the regular season.

"I just want to go out and play," he said.

Rickey Henderson and Ozzie Virgil Sr. joined the Mets as special instructors for spring training and will be available to the team all season. ... Mets owner Fred Wilpon gave $12 million to the University of Michigan to fund scholarships, create sports programs and rebuild stadiums on campus. Wilpon played baseball at Michigan until an arm injury cut short his career, the school said. He and his wife, Judy, graduated in 1958. "Through my own life experiences, I know how much happiness that sports activities, both as a player and a fan, can bring a person," Wilpon said.