LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Marcus Giles isn't looking over his shoulder this spring. He knows he'll be the second baseman on opening day and will remain in the lineup throughout the season if he hits more than .250.
But he's trying to convince himself he's still battling for a job.
"I don't think the job is mine," he said. "I don't want to think that way. Once I do, that's when I'll get complacent. I'm not good enough to do that."
With the Braves' decision not to re-sign veteran infielder Keith Lockhart, second base belongs to Giles. But it's up to him to hold onto it.
Giles, who turns 25 in May, did nothing last year to convince the team he's ready. He batted just .230 and struck out 41 times in 69 games. Manager Bobby Cox is convinced Giles will hit, and his minor league numbers suggest he's a .300 hitter with some pop in his bat. So until further notice, Giles is the second baseman.
"I don't think I have to do anything special," Giles said. "I just have to be consistent, and I think that was my problem before."
Hitting coach Terry Pendleton is stressing patience at the plate. Giles criticized himself for frequently going to the plate last season with a game plan and abandoning it after one or two at-bats. His lack of development as a hitter led to trade rumors this winter.
Reportedly he was heading to San Diego for pitcher Brett Tomko. Giles, who makes his winter home in San Diego, says he was encouraged by the Braves' failure to follow through on the deal.
"It fell through because the Braves made it fall through," he said. "I'm glad they did. This is where I want to be."
Giles, who batted .322 in five minor league seasons, including a 37-homer, 108-RBI performance with Class A Macon in 1998, doesn't need to hit .300 to keep his job. Cox wants to see him make consistent contact at the plate and play solid defense.
READY TO PLAY: Shortstop Rafael Furcal spent most of the winter playing ball in his native Dominican Republic and was on the Dominican team that won the Caribbean World Series two weeks ago. He was eager to get started during the first full-squad workout Wednesday morning.
"I think playing winter ball helps a lot," he said. "I'm in shape and I'm ready for spring training. It's only been six or seven days since I played baseball."
STATEMENT: Reliever Ray King, who was the Brewers' player representative and is running unopposed to replace Tom Glavine as the Braves' player rep, had this to say about the weight-loss drug ephedrine and the union's stance on drug testing: "It puts us on the spot. The only thing we can say without looking bad is it's an over-the-counter drug. If you want to try and lose weight, ask questions. The game of baseball is great, but your life is more important."
AROUND THE DIAMOND: The only player missing from Wednesday's workout was shortstop Wilson Betemit, whose visa was delayed in his native Dominican Republic. ... Besides a third base battle between Mark DeRosa and Vinny Castilla, and a fight for two jobs in the bullpen, the only other contest in camp is for a spot as a utility infielder between veteran Jesse Garcia and Ramon Castro. Both are non-roster invitees and both can play third, short and second. Garcia hit .300 in 58 games at Class AAA Richmond last year, and .197 in 39 games with the Braves, while Castro batted .324 at Class AA Greenville and .231 at Richmond.
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