Ramirez leading Marlins by example

Ramirez leading Marlins by example

JUPITER, Fla. -- Hanley Ramirez's raw talent is obvious. Now, more and more, his leadership qualities are surfacing.

At age 23, Ramirez is making an impact on the field, in the clubhouse and around his teammates.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez sees Ramirez as a player others follow.

"He's got tremendous upside for leadership," Gonzalez said. "You can see it in the clubhouse, little by little. I can see him being a leader on this club."

The 2006 National League Rookie of the Year, Ramirez has a boyish love for the game, and a strong determination to excel.

Asked if he expects to take on more of a leadership role, he simply shakes his head, "Yes."

He doesn't have to say it, because he expects it out of himself.

As the Marlins' leadoff hitter and shortstop, he is in two spots that command leadership. He is the captain of the infield, and the batter looked upon to make things happen.

Long regarded as one of the premiere prospects in the game, Ramirez got his chance to showcase his natural ability. His physical skills don't come around very often.

Based on an incredibly well-rounded 2006, Ramirez blossomed into what many feel is a future star. He batted .292 with 17 home runs, 59 RBIs and 51 stolen bases. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, scored 119 runs, while adding 46 doubles and 11 triples.

When reminded that leaders don't tend to be so second-year players, Ramirez responded: "It doesn't matter how young you are. It matters what kind of player you are.

"I expect to win every day. I'm going to give everything I've got, every single day."

Bring up the myth of the "sophomore jinx," and Ramirez doesn't hesitate bringing up one name.

Ryan Howard.

Howard topped a 2005 Rookie of the Year season with the NL Most Valuable Player honors in 2006.

The drive in Ramirez is evident by the fact he enjoys playing winter ball in his native Dominican. Ramirez was upset when he was asked to shut down his winter season by the Marlins in late December because he tweaked his left shoulder trying to break up a double play.

While he realizes the Marlins were trying to protect him from further damaging his shoulder, he definitely wanted to get back on the field.

In his eyes, a great deal of his 2006 success stemmed from the fact he refined his skills playing winter ball.

Ramirez is not happy sitting out.

Right now, he's been given a couple of days off after aggravating his right groin in the first inning on Tuesday. He was taken out of that game before the second inning, and he's now being given a few days rest. The Marlins were off on Wednesday, and as a precaution, he was not in the lineup Thursday against the Cardinals.

"If this was the regular season [he'd play]," Gonzalez said. "Why take a chance? Why get guys hurt in Spring Training? I was surprised he wasn't in the office knocking [my] door down trying to get some at-bats. He understands. He will play [Friday] and we'll go from there."

Ramirez beams the kind of confidence teams look for in a leader.

"For me, it's leading by example, doing whatever they ask you to do," Gonzalez said of the characteristics he looks for from a leader. "What the team asks you to do, and to go above and beyond when nobody is paying attention; when nobody is looking at you. It's easy to run balls out and play hard when the coaches are there. Are you doing the same thing when nobody is there watching you?

"If you are doing that and other people aren't watching you, that's when you are a leader. And you are not afraid to be vocal. If you see something that is wrong or not done in the right way, you say something."

As a rookie, Ramirez refused to believe all the speculation that the Marlins would lose more than 100 games. The team certainly followed his lead, and ended up 78-84, but was in Wild Card contention until mid-September.

"I told a lot of people that we were going to scare a lot of [teams] last year, and we did," Ramirez said. "We scared a lot of teams. We were in the race, and we lost a couple of games [at the end]."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.