Left fielder Ryan Braun dedicated a good portion of his winter to increasing his strength and power, and it shows.
When play began Monday, Braun sat atop the National League leader board with 12 home runs and ranked second to St. Louis' Lance Berkman with a .597 slugging percentage. Only a quarter into the season, Braun already was nearly halfway to his 2010 total of 25 home runs.
After hitting 37 home runs in 2008 and 32 in 2009, Braun was not happy about his long-ball production sagging last season. So, he immersed himself in intense workouts with former Brewers teammate Gabe Kapler.
"You always want to think that you're eventually rewarded for the work you put in," said Braun. "I feel like I worked harder than I ever had. And to this point of the season I feel like I'm reaping the benefits of that. So it's a good thing."
Braun has been very successful offensively as a major-leaguer but felt he could be even better if he focused on one specific area of his game over the winter.
"Every offseason, the goal is to get better," said Braun, who also ranks among the league leaders with 33 runs batted in. "I think one of the hardest things to do is honestly assess what you need to get better at when you've had success. I definitely feel like I have been success. At times I've been too hard on myself.
"At the same time, I try to honestly assess where I'm at. I definitely was not satisfied. I felt like for me to get better, I needed to get bigger, I needed to get stronger, I needed to get more explosive."
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