© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/08/12 7:43 PM EST

Hanley finds inspiration training with Bautista

Lighter and stronger, Marlins' third baseman aims for big year

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."

Anibal targets Wednesday for first game

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Barring any setbacks, Anibal Sanchez's first Grapefruit League start will be on Wednesday against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Sanchez is easing back from a sore right shoulder suffered last Friday.

Before the Marlins beat the Mets, 5-4, on Thursday, the right-hander threw on flat ground with pitching coach Randy St. Claire at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

"It went very well. He felt great," St. Claire said. "He played long toss and stretched it way out. It felt really good. He will have a side [session on Friday]."

Initially, the right-hander was set to make his first Grapefruit League start on Friday night against the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. Instead, Wade LeBlanc will face off against Washington's Stephen Strasburg.

The hope was to push Sanchez back one day, but that idea has been scrapped. Josh Johnson will start on Saturday, and Mark Buehrle is set for Sunday.

Sanchez will throw off the mound Friday. If that goes well, he will face hitters in live batting practice on Sunday, keeping him on schedule to join the rotation next Wednesday to face the Rays. The Marlins are trusting Sanchez will tell them when he feels ready to pitch in an exhibition game.

"He's going to tell us how to handle it," manager Ozzie Guillen said.

"We're not going to put a guy out there just because. When he's ready to pitch, he will pitch. I don't think it's a big deal, but it could be a big deal if we don't handle it the right way."

Guillen added that Sanchez is competing with Carlos Zambrano to fill either the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.