Notes: Lo Duca reflects on milestone

Notes: Lo Duca reflects on milestone

NEW YORK -- Paul Lo Duca's personal collection is small, but memorable. Displayed proudly in his home are the balls from his first hit and his first home run, among other mementos amassed throughout an 11-year career.

Now he has another -- the ball from his 1,000th hit, earned in Wednesday night's two-hit performance against the Giants.

And though he's already preserved that ball, the bat is in significantly worse shape. Lo Duca's lumber -- the same piece he's been using for the entire month of May -- broke on his last at-bat of the night, shattering the evidence of a month that's seen the catcher hit .413.

"It was my good-luck bat," Lo Duca said. "It was good to me, so I've got to get another one."

Not that the hits are likely to stop coming any time soon. Lo Duca now has 214 of them in less than two seasons with the Mets, after amassing 612 with Los Angeles and 174 with Florida. No small feat, considering that he plays a position -- catcher -- that demands fewer games and fewer at-bats on a regular basis.

"Times have changed in this game," he said. "A long time ago, catchers and shortstops didn't hit. When Yogi [Berra] hit, it was like something special. Now if you're a shortstop or catcher, you have to hit."

And the league's catchers have proven as much. Six regular catchers were hitting over .300 entering Thursday's play, with one -- the Yankees' Jorge Posada -- leading the Majors.

Lo Duca hasn't been far off the pace, standing third in the National League and fifth in the Majors, with 51 hits. But only recently has his offense caught up to his defense, which has seen him throw out 42 percent of would-be basestealers.

Years ago that was the only thing expected of a catcher. Now it's just part of the equation.

"It's different," Lo Duca said. "If you can't hit, you're in the Minor Leagues. It used to be if you couldn't hit but you could play defense, you were up here. There's a lot of catchers having great years this year."

Fresh face: The recently promoted Ben Johnson received a welcome surprise when he arrived at the ballpark on Thursday and manager Willie Randolph told him to be ready to play.

"I like his energy," Randolph said. "I don't like for my guys to sit too long before they get into action. He's been here for a couple of days, and he's really been chomping at the bit a little bit."

Johnson was slotted in left field and eighth in the lineup in favor of the struggling Carlos Gomez. In two at-bats as the beneficiary of a double-switch on Tuesday, the 25-year-old outfielder went 0-for-2.

"I was just kind of playing it by ear," Johnson said. "When [Randolph] came and told me, I was real happy. I'm definitely excited."

Gomez ended up entering Thursday's game as a replacement for Carlos Beltran, who exited with a bruised knee after colliding with San Francisco's Rich Aurilia at first.

Speed demons: Johnson may have a reputation for strong defense, but he can't come close to matching Gomez's speed. With injuries to Moises Alou and Shawn Green handing Gomez and Endy Chavez regular playing time, the lineup -- as well as the defense -- has taken on a noticeably different complexion.

"I like managing speed just as much as power," Randolph said. "Power you don't really manage, you let them go. I think sometimes it's more fun managing a team that's versatile, and maybe not one-dimensional in some ways."

Still, Randolph wasn't shy to bench Gomez after two straight games in which the 21-year-old looked overmatched, flailing at several pitches out of the zone. Gomez is now hitless in 14 at-bats since beginning his Major League career 5-for-12. Along with Johnson, he remains a leading candidate to head back to Triple-A once Alou heals.

"He was a little anxious last night, for sure," Randolph said. "He's 21 years old, and they start looking up at the board and seeing the average [going down], and they start trying to get it all back in one swing. That's youthful exuberance."

This date in Mets history, June 1: The Giants made their first appearance at the Polo Grounds since leaving their home on this date in 1962. The Mets lost, 9-6. ... With Frank Viola and John Franco combining to limit the Phillies to seven hits, the Mets won, 4-0, at the Vet for the first victory in the managerial tenure of Buddy Harrelson in 1990. The Mets would lose four of their first five games following the dismissal of Davey Johnson, but they would win 27 of their subsequent 32 games to move within a half-game of the first-place Pirates.

Two years later, Bobby Bonilla hit a grand slam and drove in six runs in the Mets' 14-1 victory against the Giants at Shea Stadium. With Bret Saberhagen already on the disabled list, the Mets were merely 1 1/2 games out of first. ... In 2004, Vance Wilson hit a home run off Tom Worrell to provide the second and third runs in the ninth-inning rally that beat the Phillies, 4-1, at Citizens Bank Park -- one of just two homers that Wilson hit in 649 at-bats with the Mets.

Forty years ago today was the release date of the Beatles' seminal album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Ten years later, the Mets were in Montreal for the first road series of Joe Torre's managerial tenure. Tom Seaver and a reporter were on the team bus, talking about music. The reporter told Seaver, "Ten years ago they released 'Sgt. Pepper.' "

Seaver's response: "Why, did he have a bad month?"

Coming up: Shea Stadium becomes a snake pit this weekend, with the Diamondbacks making their lone visit to Queens. Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb starts the opener for Arizona, opposite John Maine, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.