Ryan Braun's focus on strength paying off

Los Angeles - After his home-run production slipped a bit in 2010, Ryan Braun decided to focus specifically on that aspect of his game during intense off-season workouts.

To this point, it has been mission accomplished.

When play began Monday, the Milwaukee Brewers' all-star leftfielder 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.

That total was down from 32 homers in 2009 and 37 in 2008, so Braun worked on improving his strength and power during sessions with workout partner Gabe Kapler, a former Brewers teammate.

"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 could tell in spring training that the ball was jumping off his bat more and carrying farther, and he was eager to see if that would continue during the regular season. Thus far, it has.

"I felt great but you never know how it's going to necessarily apply in terms of baseball," he said. "Taking BP, I felt great. But you never know how it's going to apply to the game itself until you begin competing.

"It's definitely nice to see that it is applying, but it's still early in the season. The goal is to be successful over the long haul. But there's a definite difference."

Braun has been ultrasuccessful 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 off-season, the goal is to get better," said Braun, who also ranked 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 successful. 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.

"Those are the things I focused on this off-season, specifically with my body, and then hoping it would translate into baseball stuff. To this point, I feel it definitely has."

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