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Nolan Ryan talks starting pitching market

DALLAS – The Rangers are always searching for pitching, especially starters, and this offseason is no different.

Rangers CEO and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said he doesn’t see any “glaring need” for his ballclub, but acknowledged he’d be more comfortable if the Rangers had an additional top starter.

The club has expressed considerable interest in the two biggest free agent options: C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle. They are expected to meet with the agents of both pitchers before the Winter Meetings end at the Hilton Anatole. That includes a likely chat with Wilson’s agent, Bob Garber, on Tuesday. And they have interest in Roy Oswalt, who is likely to wait until Wilson and Buehrle sign before making his choice. Garber is also Oswalt's agent.

“We know what C.J. is capable of doing,” Ryan said Tuesday. “We really, truly believe in C.J. that he can handle the workload, that he keeps you in ballgames, that he’s competitive. You don’t have to worry about him being in shape. We’re more familiar and more comfortable with him than anyone else.”

Ryan said the team is prepared to look at other options if Wilson ends up signing somewhere else.

Wilson has a little more than 430 innings as a starter in the majors, most of it the past two seasons. Buehrle has thrown at least 200 innings in each of his 11 full seasons in the big leagues. And Oswalt has been a starter his entire career, since coming to the majors in 2001.

“If you look at what Buehrle has done with his career, there’s obviously more of a track record there,” Ryan said. “[The] same with Oswalt. You also know the history of those guys and are somewhat familiar with them. The fact that C.J. has only started 400 or something innings, you can look at it two different ways: Does that mean you don’t know how he’ll handle the workload going forward or is he better prepared to handle the workload going forward? It’s hard to say.”

Wilson has been healthy since having surgery to remove bone spurs on Aug. 11, 2008. He pitched in the bullpen in 2009 and then made the successful transition to the rotation in 2010. Oswalt’s back has given him fits in past seasons, including 2011, when he pitched just 139 innings.

“You have to obviously give consideration to Roy’s back and the challenges that he’s had with it in his career,” Ryan said. “It’s been consistent and persistent. That’s something you have to take into consideration. The fact that Buehrle has been healthy and had the workload he’s had is very favorable as far as people looking at him.”

Ryan talked about Neftali Feliz moving to the rotation and expressed confidence that he’s ready and can handle the change. And the club still has Scott Feldman as another starter who could slide in the rotation if necessary. That won’t stop Texas from shopping for starters, though.

“I don’t think you can have enough pitching,” Ryan said. “As we know, you’re going to need starters during the course of the season. I’ve never know an organization that said they had excess pitching. They may think they have challenges of how they get innings to certain people and then 30 days later you wake up and wonder who’s going to start because of all the things that happened. You’re always looking for additional pitching.”

Ryan said the club will look at any way to get better, not just on the mound. He said he’s comfortable with Mitch Moreland as the club’s starting first baseman on Opening Day and believes he’ll be fully healthy. The team still needs a utility infielder and is hoping to add to the bullpen.

"Obviously, we’re not looking to make a blockbuster deal in moving some of our position players, but would look at an opportunity if something was presented,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to speculate. We’re very comfortable with our ballclub, but we come here with an open mind hoping we can improve our ballclub."