VIERA, Fla. (AP) -Addressing his inclusion in the Mitchell Report for the first time, Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca acknowledged what he called ``a mistake'' - without coming right out and explaining exactly what he was apologizing for.
The four-time All-Star was among the more prominent players cited in baseball investigator George Mitchell's report on drug use in the sport, which was released Dec. 13. That was two days after Washington announced it signed Lo Duca to a $5 million, one-year contract.
``You do something wrong in your life and you get away with it, you still have something inside you that burns,'' Lo Duca said, his shoulders slumping and his fingers fidgeting with the folds of his orange T-shirt. ``And, um, it's been a big relief for me to know that I've come to grips with it. That I made a mistake.''
ers in touch with - admitted steroid distributor Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse employee. Radomski pleaded guilty in April.
Lo Duca was completely silent on the matter for more than two months. But Saturday, he issued a statement through the team in the morning, saying: ``In regards to Senator Mitchell's Report, I apologize ... for mistakes in judgment I made in the past.''
Then he held a news conference shortly after arriving at Washington's spring training facility in the afternoon. Even then, Lo Duca was not very expansive.
Asked whether the Mitchell Report was accurate about him, Lo Duca said: ``I'm not going to comment on that.''
When another reporter asked what he was apologizing for, Lo Duca replied, ``Come on, bro'. Next question.''
It was reminiscent of New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi's non-detailed apology in February 2005, a few months after it had been reported that he told a federal grand jury in 2003 he took steroids. At no point did Giambi explicitly say why he was apologizing, nor did he ever use the word ``steroids.''
With general manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta standing silently nearby, leaning against a wall, Lo Duca sat at a glass table while taking questions. He spoke about the Mitchell Report for about five minutes, before a team spokesman said the topic should change to ``baseball questions.''
ll's work. He gave Mitchell's investigators copies of checks he said were from Lo Duca, each in the amount of $3,200. Radomski said those were for HGH.
The report also included handwritten notes from Lo Duca to Radomski, one of which was seized from Radomski's house during a search by federal agents and read, in part: ``Kirk, Sorry! But for some reason they sent the check back to me.'' Another note in the report read: ``Thanks, call me if you need anything! Paul.''
Asked why he did not speak about what Mitchell wrote sooner, Lo Duca said: ``Offseason's my offseason, and when the baseball season started back up, I wanted to take care of this issue. ... I thought today - with my agent, we thought today - would be the best day to release it.''
He played for the Mets the past two years, then moved to the Nationals as a free agent. Lo Duca, who turns 36 during the first month of the 2008 season, had left knee surgery last month and is expected to miss most of spring training.
The target is to be playing in exhibition games by March 15, and before then he plans to sit on a milk crate to do some catching in the bullpen.
``I really, really feel confident I'm going to be ready for opening day,'' Lo Duca said. ``There's been no setbacks.''
Bowden and Acta have both agreed with that assessment.
s. Last year, though, his numbers were .272, nine homers, 54 RBIs.
``So that I can focus on making positive contributions and avoid creating further distractions, I respectfully decline to comment any further on the content of the Mitchell Report,'' Lo Duca said in the statement, which he read aloud at the start of the news conference.
Acta and Lo Duca's new teammates were supportive.
``It's not a distraction. It's over,'' first baseman Nick Johnson said. ``He's a gamer out there, doing what it takes to win.''
Acta, Lo Duca's third base coach with the Mets in 2006, said earlier in the day: ``Frankly my dear, I'm ready to talk about something else other than that stuff, because I'm really kind of tired of it. ... I'm glad he has apologized and admitted it.''
Lo Duca was the only current member of the Nationals named in the Mitchell Report.
He also was the only player to hold a news conference at Space Coast Stadium during 2008 spring training so far.
At one point - perhaps forgetting for a moment that he was linked to drug use and that he injured his knee so badly during a workout that he needed an operation - Lo Duca summed up his past few months this way: ``So it's been a good offseason.''

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