MIAMI - Less than two weeks into the season and Chipper Jones is already hobbling.
The left fielder, bothered by shin splints in both legs caused by the artificial turf at Veterans Stadium, spent much of Friday afternoon in the trainers room.
"Whirlpool, rubdown, muscle stimulation," Jones said, checking off the treatments he received. "I know it didn't feel real good running the bases (Thursday). I'd like to use that as an excuse for why I didn't get any hits, but I can't."
Jones, who had both legs heavily taped, said he had shin splints as a youngster, but not since he signed with the Braves in 1990. Trainers have told him they may bother him for two weeks.
Jones was joking when he said the cause of the shin splints was a "declining batting average." He's off to a slow start, hitting .242 with just two RBI in the first 10 games, surprising numbers from a hitter who's a career .314 hitter in April. Jones batted .356 last April, hit seven home runs, and knocked in 23 runs.
"I can't explain hitting," Jones said. "I'd probably have more input into rocket science than hitting right now."
IMPRESSIVE START: Second baseman Marcus Giles has four multi-hit games among his first 10, and is batting .333, best among the regulars. Those numbers prompted this question to manager Bobby Cox: When is he going to move Giles up in the lineup, replacing Andruw Jones in the No. 2 spot?
"You always think about the lineup," Cox said evasively.
Cox doesn't want to demote Jones, but he may soon have no choice. Jones headed into Friday night's opener of a weekend series against the Marlins as the major league strikeout leader with 16 whiffs, and his .175 average trailed only leadoff man Rafael Furcal's .158 average for worst among the regulars.
Speaking of Furcal, the official scorer changed his decision on an error he charged Furcal Thursday, deciding to award a hit to Travis Lee on his seventh-inning smash the shortstop couldn't handle. So, Furcal has five errors in 10 games, not six.
If Cox is thinking about lineup changes, he might sit down Furcal for a few games and start Mark DeRosa at shortstop. DeRosa is 6 for 11 and has a .545 on-base percentage, compared to Furcal's .256 percentage and no stolen bases.
ALMOST FORGOTTEN: Wes Helms and Keith Lockhart have become the forgotten men on the bench. Helms has started one game and has five at-bats, while Lockhart has not started any of the team's first 11 games and has six at-bats, all as a pinch hitter.
Lockhart said he may stand in against pitchers throwing in the bullpen to see some pitches.
"The pitch recognition is not as sharp when you see 65 mph pitches in (batting practice), then you see 90 mph fastballs and sliders in the game," he said. "The hardest thing to do is sit back and relax at the plate. I get too geared up for that at-bat. You try not to tell yourself you've only had four at-bats in a couple of weeks."
Lockhart led the club with 15 pinch hits last year, ranking second among National League pinch hitters, but he's 0 for 6 this season.
"You can have success at this job, but you never figure it out," he said. "That's why you have to have a short memory in this game. Forget what happened the day before and start over again."
AROUND THE DIAMOND: Rookie reliever Tim Spooneybarger was happy to get out of Philadelphia. In two appearances against the Phillies, he got just two outs and gave up four hits, two walks, and three runs. ... Still, the bullpen has two perfect relievers. Darren Holmes has pitched 6 1/3 innings without allowing a run, while Mike Remlinger has worked four innings without giving up a hit. Opposing batters are 0 for 12 against the left-hander. ... Furcal entered Friday's game with just one hit in 15 at-bats in the first four games of the trip.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com
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