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Hanley's future bright in Pujols' eyes

Hanley's future bright in Pujols' eyes

ST. LOUIS -- To be the best, it certainly helps to learn from the best.

Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez refers to Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols as the "No. 1 player in the National League."

For that matter, Pujols is arguably the top player in the Major Leagues.

Ramirez, who leads the NL in batting average and hits, is a big fan of Pujols. During Spring Training, the two All-Stars talked and shared insights.

"Just like I do with everybody who's young in this game -- it can be from my team or the opposite side," Pujols said. "I just want everybody to progress and have a great career. He's one of the guys right now, he's one of the best shortstops in the game. He has a [bright] future if he can stay healthy."

Many regard Pujols and Ramirez as the top two players in the NL this season. The two have similarities in the fact they can hit for power and batting average. Speed is a bigger part of Ramirez's game.

"He's a big guy -- he knows that he's strong enough to hit the ball out of the park, any park," Pujols said. "He doesn't have to pull the ball or anything. He can hit the ball for power from corner to corner in any ballpark. He has more tools than I have. He can run. He has a great arm. He plays a position that you're expecting a lot from.

"But it's hard to compare players. I don't like to compare myself with anybody. I don't like anybody to compare themselves with me. because it's hard."

There is only one Pujols. Yet, the style of player Ramirez is also makes him unique.

Ramirez is on the verge of his first 100-RBI season. After being primarily a leadoff batter his first three seasons, he has switched this season to the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

Ramirez has made the adjustment and he's become a reliable run producer. In Spring Training, the 25-year-old shortstop asked Pujols how he approached hitting with runners in scoring position.

"In Spring Training, I always talked to him," Pujols said. "It's good when you get to see him. Actually, believe it or not, he's married [to] a cousin of mine. We've known each other over the last four or five years. When you see a guy like that have success early in his career, you encourage him to never change. Just keep it the same.

"That's something that I tried to encourage him. That's most important to me. That's more important than any hitting advice that I can give. I know how important that is. He has done that. He's the same kid that I've known for the last five years."

Pujols gave Ramirez some pointers on how to approach the situation with men on base.

"He just told me something, and I did it," Ramirez said. "It worked for me."

When it comes to his numbers, Ramirez says the only one he pays attention to is the scoreboard. With the Marlins in the playoff hunt, he isn't focused on his statistics.

"I don't know how to explain it," Ramirez said. "I worry about what's on the scoreboard, not my numbers. With 100 RBIs, that means I'm helping the team. But for me, 100 RBIs is nothing [special]. It's not like I work for 100 RBIs. That's how I feel."

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

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