Ryan Expects 92 Wins from 2010 Rangers

By Stephen Hawkins
|  Thursday, Apr 1, 2010  |  Updated 2:03 PM CDT
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Who Are This Year's Texas Rangers?

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Tommy Hunter #35 poses for a portrait during the Texas rangers Photo Day at Surprise on March 2, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.

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With Nolan Ryan's resume as a Hall of Fame pitcher, his job as team president and his pending role as part-owner of the Texas Rangers, his words -- and predictions -- certainly carry some weight.

And Ryan expects more from the Rangers after they finished second in the American League West last year with only their second winning record in 10 seasons.

"If the injuries are not critical, and we don't have people that underperform, then I don't think there's a reason that we shouldn't be capable of winning 92 games," Ryan said. "I just feel like it is a reasonable figure. ... I don't believe I'm just pulling a figure out of the sky."

Texas won 87 games a year ago even though Michael Young and Josh Hamilton missed most of the final month of the season injured. The Rangers also were depending on rookies in center field, at shortstop and out of the bullpen.

Getting at least five more victories doesn't really seem out of reach considering:

-- The two All-Stars who played only once together in September are now healthy.

-- The valuable experience gained last summer by Julio Borbon, now the leadoff-hitting center fielder; shortstop Elvis Andrus, who finished second in voting for AL Rookie of the Year as the youngest position player in the majors; and 100-mph pitcher Neftali Feliz, still in the bullpen after a spring shot at the rotation.

-- Rich Harden and Colby Lewis have been added to the rotation, though Scott Feldman will start the opener Monday at home against Toronto after going from long reliever to 17-game winner last season.

"It's not just Nolan that thinks that or is just throwing out a number," Feldman said. "We all think we're going to have a pretty good year."

Texas last year won one more game in the regular season than Detroit or Minnesota, who had to play a one-game tiebreaker for the AL Central title. But the young Rangers weren't quite ready to overtake the Los Angeles Angels (97-65) for the AL West or Boston (95-67) in the wild-card race.

This is the 50th season of the franchise that began as the Washington Senators in 1961, and moved to Texas in 1972.

In all that time, the Rangers have never won a playoff series, going 1-9 in the postseason -- all against the New York Yankees -- after winning their only three AL West titles in a four-year span at the end of the 1990s.

The only time they came close to the playoffs since was 2004, their only other winning season since 1990s.

"In the past there was a lot of talk, and right now I don't want to make it about talk," said Young, the longest-tenured Ranger going into his 10th season. "I want to make it about action. ... There's not much talking. It's just a feeling that we feel like we're going to be a good team."

Texas has improved its record each year under fourth-year manager Ron Washington, who doesn't have a contract past this season. He didn't get an extension last summer, though it became apparent why this spring with the revelation that the 57-year-old manager had tried cocaine then.

Washington called the drug use a "huge mistake" and one-time incident.

The Rangers knew about his indiscretion last summer, and refused Washington's offer then to resign. They stuck with him again when it became public.

Washington kept his job after some early struggles the past two seasons -- a 2-7 stretch after Texas opened last year with a three-game series sweep, and a 20-loss May in 2008.

Considering the expectations for this team and his off-field mistake last summer, Washington likely has little leeway if the Rangers stumble out of the gate or have any extended struggles this season.

The key additions for the Rangers are designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, Harden and Lewis, their former first-round pick who pitched in Japan the last two seasons.

The 35-year-old Guerrero had two stints on the disabled list last season (torn pectoral muscle, strained left knee) with the Angels. The eight-time All-Star and former AL MVP hit .333 with 10 RBIs in 19 games this spring in Arizona, with no home runs in his 57 at-bats.

While right-hander Harden is healthy after being on the DL seven times the last five seasons, his numbers weren't this spring -- 1-3 with an 8.87 ERA in six Arizona starts.

Lewis won 10 games as a rookie for Texas in 2003, and was in the rotation the next season before a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He went 26-17 with a 2.82 ERA over two seasons in Japan.

In his last spring-training start, Lewis had seven scoreless innings before giving up a pair of runs in the eighth. Feldman had seven shutout innings in his final tuneup.

Another rotation newcomer is left-hander C.J. Wilson, the former closer who next week will make his first start since his rookie season five years ago.

"What I'm trying to do right now is just pace myself and go out and pitch," Wilson said. "I know I'm always going to have something in the tank."

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