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Hanely Ramirez Works on Building Ranch, Lower Body Strength During Winter Offseason

   Hanley Ramirez showed off pictures of his new spread in the Dominican Republic -- a working ranch -- to a group of sportswriters this morning. Ramirez spent the winter building the 5-bedroom pad, located about 35 miles outside of Santo Domingo. The place comes with all the usual farm animals -- cows, chickens, horses and the like -- and Ramirez said he looks the part by wearing a cowboy hat. He said an aunt oversees a staff of seven to keep the place running while he's away. The place even has a name: H2R Ranch, a combination of his initials and uniform number.

   But Ramirez was even prouder of his other offseason project: working on lower body strength. The NL batting champ said he noticed he started "running out of gas" toward the end of last season and wanted to keep it from happening again.

   "I told myself I got to do something to help my lower body," Ramirez said. "I feel like I didn' t have enough power, because your power comes from your lower body. I was feeling like that at the end of the season, with no power."

    Ramirez is hoping the improvement in strength will help him in all facets: base running, hitting and fielding.

    "As a player you need your lower body to do everything, to pitch, to play defense, run -- everything," he said. "I've got more energy."

   While Ramirez won the batting title with a .342 average, he battled a hamstring injury and struggled in September, hitting just. 268 the final month. Ramirez will be bidding to become the first NL player to win back-to-back batting titles since Larry Walker did it with the Rockies in 1998-99.

    Over the winter, Ramirez said he worked on getting in shape from Monday through Friday and building his ranch on Saturday and Sunday. He said he posed atop a horse but was too "scared" to ride the steed.

    "Like I told my teammates," Ramirez said, smiling, "It's not easy being one of the best players in baseball. It's a commitment."

    -- Credit veteran Wes Helms with playing the first practical joke of the spring. The victim: Chris Coghlan. Helms hung two pairs of Coghlan's cleats from the clubhouse ceiling. The reason: Helms said the Nike-brand cleats were adorned with Coghlan's initials and number -- something Helms said Nike only does when a player makes two All-Star teams. Coghlan, the NL Rookie of the Year, has never been an All-Star. But Helms said Coghlan beat the system, going online to order the shoes.

   "He's trying to be like a two-time All-Star," Helms said. "We've got to let him know. We've got to keep him humble."

    -- The Marlins continue to await on the arrival of reliever Jose Veras, who remains in the D.R. with visa issues.