PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A little inspiration from an American League home run champion in the offseason helped push Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez credits being in better shape this spring to working out in the Dominican Republic with a couple of big leaguers. The biggest star to give Ramirez a push in the gym was Toronto slugger Jose Bautista.
"He works hard," Ramirez said. "I think that's what I needed in my life, somebody like that who is an inspiration for me."
Five days a week, Ramirez trained hard -- on the field in the morning and in the gym in the afternoon -- with Bautista, Wilson Betemit and Carlos Peguero. Ramirez has dropped eight pounds since last season, leaning out to 227 pounds.
"That made a lot of difference," said Ramirez, the National League batting champion in 2009. "When you see them lifting, doing cones and ladders, you want to follow that. You don't want to stay behind. That gave me inspiration and energy."
Ramirez is recovering from left shoulder surgery. He is lighter this spring and feels stronger. Ramirez is getting extension through his swing, and it showed on Thursday when he hit a long home run to left field off Frank Francisco.
"He's healthy, that's the main thing," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When Hanley is healthy, he can be one of the best hitters in the league. I think right now, he's having fun. He is swinging the bat pretty good, the last couple of games that we've played. Our goal is to keep him that way."
Ramirez did endure some pain on Thursday, fouling a ball off his left calf. He was sore afterwards, but he is planning on playing on Friday against the Nationals.
"I'm going to ice it," Ramirez said. "I feel a little tight."
Ramirez is on a pretty specific playing schedule in Spring Training, and he wants to stick with it.
"I've got my routine," Ramirez said. "[Guillen] let me know ahead of time. I don't want to miss that. I want to continue."