Originally created 02/22/06

Giles has no qualms with hitting leadoff



LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Contrary to a suggestion by a former teammate, Marcus Giles said Tuesday that he's pumped about the possibility of hitting leadoff this season for the Atlanta Braves.

The man he'd be replacing, new Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, joked in a published report earlier in the day that Giles might not take so kindly to the role.

Doesn't sound like that's the case.

"I guess I'm the only candidate, really, which is cool. I'm excited," said Giles, who batted second last year. Incoming shortstop Edgar Renteria is expected to hit second.

"Every new challenge I think is exciting," Giles said. "To me, it's just another challenge. It's just motivation."

Giles said both manager Bobby Cox and hitting coach Terry Pendleton have already urged Giles not to alter his approach if he does wind up hitting at the top of the order.

"It's just a number in the order," Giles said. "It's just what we have to do."

EARLY ANDRUW: Center fielder Andruw Jones said he could have hit 10 home runs or won the NL MVP last season, and he still would've wanted to be at the Braves' training camp early.

The MVP runner-up has been at Disney before pitchers and catchers were required to report. He also has been participating in every hitting drill possible.

"I love my wife, but I just get bored at home, sitting around," said Jones, who led the majors last year with 51 homers and the NL with 128 RBI. "I'm always looking forward to being down here early and start working on stuff."

HAMPTON HEALING: Injured lefty Mike Hampton said he's tried to remain hopeful despite the fact that he won't pitch this year for the Braves.

Hampton had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in August. He said he's close to throwing again, but doctors are telling him to take it slow because of a recent operation to clean up scar tissue in his left knee.

Hampton has been reassured that he'll be able to return in 2007 as healthy as he was at the peak of his career.

"That's the plan," Hampton said. "I don't have to feel that anesthesia going through my veins and be put out. ...

"It's been a long time since I've been able to think about only baseball and not what's aching and what's hurting."

Reach R. Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.