LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Looking fit and ready to play, Dale Murphy leaned against the batting cage Wednesday and remarked on his first day as a guest instructor.
"I'm getting in the whirlpool," he joked. "I didn't move too fast, but I'm sore."
Murphy, the Braves' two-time MVP whose No. 3 was retired in 1994, spent more time observing and listening than talking during the club's first full-squad workout. He admitted to feeling awkward initially, but judging by the response from manager Bobby Cox and third baseman Chipper Jones, he's welcome to stay for as long as he wants.
"It's pretty awesome having Murph here," Jones said. "When I was growing up, he was the man. He's helped me off and on throughout my career. He's a two-time MVP and hit 400 home runs in the big leagues, you'd be stupid not to listen to him."
"It's important to keep your star players coming back here," Cox said.
Murphy said he plans to remain in camp until the first exhibition game March 1. He said he'll focus on outfield play, baserunning and hitting, but HE downplayed his contributions.
"I don't say a lot," he said. "These guys are so talented; it's not like their techniques are out of whack. I'm here to observe and be part of it. If there's anything I can add, I will."
VERAS A NO-SHOW:
Second baseman Quilvio Veras was absent from Wednesday's workout, which surprised club officials, who expect him to report to camp today.
"I don't know where he is," general manager John Schuerholz said. "He may have travel problems. But, we are not bothered by it."
Veras, a native of the Dominican Republic, was the only player missing Wednesday.
SAME OLD ANDRUW:
Andruw Jones, the Braves' latest $8 million player, said Tuesday's arbitration win would have little impact on him.
"Win or lose, you've got to come down here and play the game," he said. "I don't see the difference between $8.2 (million) and $6.4 (million). It really doesn't matter."
After taking some time off after last season and returning to his native Curacao, Jones has been hitting at Turner Field's indoor cages since early January with George Lombard, Wes Helms and Mark DeRosa. He's intent on improving last year's numbers (.303, 36 HR, 104 RBI), though his first order of business will be losing some weight.
He reported to camp a bit heavy and admitted, "It gets a little boring if you stay at home and get fat."
NEW AND IMPROVED:
B.J. Surhoff spent so much time in the trainer's room after arriving in a July 31 trade with the Orioles, a whirlpool should have been named in his honor.
He suffered a right quadriceps pull that hampered him throughout September and prevented him from playing in the postseason.
It took 12 weeks for Surhoff to recover, then he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a tear. He spent the winter running and cycling, and says he's regained his strength and range of motion.
"I'd like to tell you (the hitter) what you saw last season was only half of what I can do," Surhoff said. "I tried, but I just couldn't play. It was very disappointing because I felt I was starting to play well when I got hurt."
A healthy Surhoff would be a boon to a lineup that figures to be vastly improved, even with Andres Galarraga's departure. Surhoff is a career .281 hitter, and it was just two years ago he hit 28 home runs and drove in 107 runs for the Orioles.
"In terms of proving anything, every year you have to reprove yourself," he said. "There are standards you set, and you try and reach them."