Ex-GreenJacket Ramirez eager to earn trip to playoffs with Marlins

Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez (left) pounds fists with manager Fredi Gonzalez during spring training. The former GreenJacket is the defending NL batting champion after hitting .342 last year.

JUPITER, Fla. --- Sitting at his locker, Hanley Ramirez sorts through photos on his cell phone, finds the one he wants and holds it up with pride.


The picture shows the ranch he's building in the Dominican Republic.

"It has everything -- chickens, goats, cows," Ramirez said. There will also be a pool, gazebos and five bedrooms.

The NL batting champion and former Augusta GreenJacket owns a cowboy hat, but no cowboy boots. He designed the ranch as a vacation home, but he spent little time there this winter because he was in Santo Domingo working out five days a week.

"Like I told my teammates," he said, "it's not easy to be one of the best playing the game. It's a commitment, like to get married. You've got to focus."

A year ago, Ramirez arrived at the Florida Marlins' camp 25 pounds heavier, most of it muscle thanks to a rigorous offseason regimen. Then he hit .342 with 106 RBI, both career highs, and won his first batting title.

This winter he concentrated on honing his lower body, and he reported for spring training Tuesday eager to make the playoffs for the first time.

"I feel better right now," Ramirez said. "I've got more energy."

That's a scary prospect for NL pitchers. In his first four major league seasons, Ramirez has 771 hits, 470 runs, 103 homers and 164 stolen bases. Only three shortstops reached 100 homers faster. He's a career .316 hitter with a .531 slugging percentage.

"Unbelievable," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Well, not unbelievable, because we know how talented he is. Now the only thing he has to do is sustain it, and in 10 years we'll be talking about him like Albert Pujols and those guys."

Ramirez was runner-up to Pujols for NL MVP last season, and he has made the All-Star team as a starter the past two years.

Despite the Marlins' aversion to long-term contracts, he landed a $70 million, six-year contract that began last season.

He's sharing the wealth. When he earned a $10,000 season-ending bonus for the Marlins' second-place finish in the NL East, he gave it to teammate and fellow Dominican Leo Nunez.

This year Ramirez will make $7 million, which is why he can afford a staff of more than a dozen employees at his homes. Half are at the H2R Ranch.

The name includes Ramirez's uniform number between his initials. He calls H2R his brand name and has it on his SUV.

"I'm going to get H2R on my license plate, too," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

Ramirez's aunt runs his ranch, still under construction a half-hour from his home in Santo Domingo. He was in the city during the earthquake that hit neighboring Haiti last month.

"I felt it," Ramirez said. "I was sleeping, and I saw the bed moving. I got scared because I thought there was somebody hiding under the bed. I ran out of the room. My wife was outside the house. She saw all my cars in the parking garage moving. It was big."

Ramirez joined other position players in an informal workout Tuesday. With the long grind of another year about to begin, Ramirez frowned when asked how long it will be before the next trip to his ranch.

After the season? He nodded.

"November," he said.

Right after the World Series.

By the numbers

A look at Hanley Ramirez's career numbers with the Marlins.

Career618 771 103 313 .316

Source: marlins.mlb.com