Notes: Giles ready for new challenge

Notes: Giles ready for new challenge

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Fresh off a weekend in which he celebrated a Daytona 500 victory with his good friend Jimmie Johnson, Marcus Giles reported to Spring Training on Tuesday.

As he unpacked a few boxes in the home clubhouse at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Tuesday morning, the Braves second baseman was wearing his usual mischievous smile and showing no signs of being nervous about having to get used to a new double play partner or adapting to life as a leadoff hitter.

"I don't see it being a problem at all," Giles said. "But at the same time, you just got to get it done."

Both Giles and shortstop Edgar Renteria made their first appearances in camp on Tuesday, the deadline for all Braves position players to report. Neither seemed to believe it would take them too long to get used to each other and form what could be a very strong double play combination.

"As easy as [former shortstop Rafael Furcal] made it on me, I don't think it's going to be any different with him," Giles said. "As good as he is, I just think he can make my job just as easy. It's just repetition."

While Giles has known Furcal to be his double play partner throughout a majority of his professional career, Renteria hasn't enjoyed that consistent luxury. Since 2002, he's had to get used to a different second baseman every year.

"The most important thing is communication," Renteria said. "If we have the communication, I think we could be good."

Braves manager Bobby Cox hasn't officially announced his plans for the batting order. But he's already told Giles that he wants him to keep his aggressive approach if he's ultimately placed in that leadoff position, one which Furcal filled the previous six seasons.

"We'll see who is the guy," Cox said. "But [Giles] sure can do it."

In 231 at-bats as the leadoff hitter during his 2001 rookie season, Giles hit .260 and produced a .337 on-base-percentage. Since then, he's regularly batted second, a spot in which he's displayed his unselfishness by routinely hitting the ball to the opposite field.

"Every new challenge is exciting," Giles said. "To me, it's just another challenge. Like I've said since I was a rookie, 'Leadoff or eight or second in the order, it's always better than 10th.' At least you're still in there."

It's obvious Giles, who has produced a better on-base-percentage than Furcal each of the previous three seasons, doesn't plan on losing the aggressive approach that has brought him so much success early in his career.

This past weekend, he says he told Johnson, "I'll be the first person ever in the history of the baseball to swing at the first pitch. And I'll swing hard, too."

Hampton in camp: Mike Hampton won't be pitching for the Braves this year. But along with both of his surgically-repaired limbs, he plans on being with the team for most of the upcoming season.

When Hampton learned that he needed Tommy John surgery -- which was performed in September -- and would miss the entire 2006 season, he opted to also have scar tissue removed from his left knee. That procedure was performed in January.

Hampton said his arm is strong enough to begin throwing exercises. But doctors have told him he needs to rest his knee a little longer before he starts throwing.

"Everything looks great," Hampton said. "The doctors said there's no reason that I couldn't get back to where I was before."

Hampton will have two years remaining on his contract and be just 34 when he prepares for the 2007 season with Atlanta. He's looking forward to the opportunity to once again focus on pitching, without worrying about the aches that have hindered him while performing his craft the past few years.

"I just wanted to get in the best shape that I can and get everything taken care of, so that when I do come back, I can just go [all out] and what happens, happens," Hampton said. "It's been a long time since I've been able to think about only baseball and what not what's aching and what's hurting."

Braves bits: Renteria worked with a personal trainer throughout the winter and spent some time taking batting practice in his native Colombia. ... Hampton, Giles and Chipper Jones were all in Johnson's pit when the accomplished NASCAR driver won the Daytona 500 on Sunday. ... Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay and Terry McGuirk, who serves as the team's chairman and president, headed a group of team executives who arrived in camp on Tuesday.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.