Ryan has faith in Rangers' resolve
Club president confident despite recent World Series losses
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan enters his fifth season on the job, and his optimism for his ballclub has not waned after back-to-back World Series defeats.Ryan made a brief appearance at camp on Wednesday and said the Rangers just keep getting better with each passing year. Ryan also said he does not expect his team to be affected by last year's heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals in the World Series. He did not make any predictions, as he has in the past, but he clearly expects the Rangers to be competitive, win the American League West title and go deep into the playoffs again. "I've talked to some of the guys who have been working out at the ballpark, and I feel like they have the same mindset as last year," Ryan said. "I wouldn't say that if I didn't see the work ethic. I judge it by the fact that after the first of the year, guys are showing up at the ballpark, working out regularly, enjoying being with their teammates and going about their work. "These are things I pick up just by watching them and listening to them. There are a lot of positive indications that I see this spring. I don't see them talking about the World Series too much or worrying about that. I think they've put that behind them." Despite having won back-to-back AL pennants, the Rangers have lost both times in the World Series. They lost in five games to the Giants in 2010 and to the Cardinals in seven games last year. Last year's Game 6 is the one everybody will remember because the Rangers had a 7-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth and a 9-7 lead going into the bottom of the 10th. In both innings, the Rangers were one strike away from winning their first World Series, only to see the Cardinals stage a two-out rally to tie the game. The Cardinals ended up winning, 10-9, in 11 innings and won Game 7 as well. There have been questions about how the Rangers will handle that, but Ryan is not worried.
"I think we have the expectations of being a good ballclub," Ryan said. "I think we know we're capable of winning the division. As we all know, you can't predict what will happen in the postseason, but this team is a confident bunch. They're up for the challenge. There are so many positive things about our ballclub."The Rangers set a club record with 96 wins last year and have much of the same team coming back. Texas did lose Opening Day starter C.J. Wilson but signed Yu Darvish from Japan and added Joe Nathan as its closer, which allows the club to move Neftali Feliz into the rotation. "Each year I've been here, we've had a better ballclub," Ryan said. "Part of that is we've added some important pieces, but if you ask me why we're better in 2012 and stronger than before, I would have to say it's our young pitching -- the innings they've logged, the success that they have had and the durability they've shown. They have been an important part of the success we've had." Ryan includes Darvish in that group. The right-hander had a successful seven-year career in Japan, but he is still only 25 years old, which puts him right there with Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Feliz. Opening Day starter Colby Lewis, 32, is the only Rangers starter who has reached his 30th birthday. "I don't think these guys have yet reached the level they are capable of," Ryan said. "That includes Yu. He is in the same situation as the other starters. His best years are ahead of him, just like Holland, Harrison, Ogando and Feliz." Ryan walked through the clubhouse on Wednesday morning before attending a four-hour organizational meeting upstairs. He spoke briefly with Darvish, whom Ryan has seen pitch on video only. "I think we're all excited to see him throw and watch him do his work," Ryan said. "I think he's going to be one of the leaders on our staff in innings pitched. There is going to be an adjustment, obviously. He'll have to learn the hitters, adjust to a new baseball and adjust to pitching in a five-man rotation. "My advice to him is, 'Don't come in here and try to do more than what you're capable of doing. Just enjoy the spring, the new situation and the challenges.' We are here to support him. I'd like to develop a relationship with him where if he has something on his mind or something is bothering him, he can come in and talk to me." Darvish has been a big story in camp. Josh Hamilton will be another when he arrives, possibly as early as Thursday. Ryan said he has spoken to Hamilton a few times since the star outfielder suffered a relapse in his sobriety at the end of January. "Josh has a great attitude," Ryan said. "He's looking forward to getting here and getting to work. He's very focused. He's in great shape. Josh understands his condition, his problem and the challenges that he has. When he has an issue like the one he just had, he's willing to stand up, admit that he has an ongoing situation that he has to keep working on and addressing. "We're all concerned with Josh. Us who don't have an addiction don't understand the challenges Josh has, but we're going to try and do everything we can to help him." Hamilton remains unsigned beyond this season. Ryan declined to speculate on what might happen and if the Rangers will at some point be willing to reach a multiyear contract extension with Hamilton. Those discussions were tabled when Hamilton had his relapse, and they have not yet resumed. "I really can't go into that," Ryan said. "There are so many factors that come into play when talking about a long-term extension. At this point in time, we're going to let things settle out before we get into that. I think he's doing the appropriate things he should be doing right now -- dealing with what happened and moving on."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.