Nolan Ryan's focus is pitching (of course)

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan was asked Friday what he would be keeping his eye on the most this spring and the Hall of Fame hurler said pitching, especially the competition for the No. 5 rotation spot.

"When you look at our ballclub, the area of biggest need is pitching," Ryan said. "I would say from my perspective, that's are probably the area of uncertainty that we have and who is going to step up and there are opportunities there for people. I think obviously we’re going to hope that one of the young kids steps up and fill some of the needs that we have."

Ryan listed the bullpen in those needs, adding that there are plenty of young arms in camp. But what about that fifth-starter spot? Any particular pitcher he'd like to see step up?

"I don’t have a feel for saying what I think is the favorite. I really don’t," Ryan said. "I think all of us feel that Martin Perez is a very talented kid that has three pitches and when we start talking about a spot in the rotation, really what you look for is somebody that has that."

Perez joins Robbie Ross, Kyle McClellan, Randy Wells, Justin Grimm, Cody Buckel and Nick Tepesch as contenders for that spot. Perez has been one of the club's top pitching prospects for a few years now and Ryan said he wants to see more consistency out of him.

"I think for him to earn that spot that’s what he’s going to have to do -- show some consistency," Ryan said. "When you look at what Robbie Ross did last year, his outings in spring training were pretty darn consistent and that’s what you hope that whoever wins that spot -- I have a feeling that’s what’s going to be a separator."

Ryan also talked about the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the rotation, occupied by Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, and about how it's time for them to take a step forward. Holland scattered six hits, but allowed just one run in three innings in his first spring outing in Friday. Ogando struggled to find the strike zone and had two walks and a hit batter to go along with two hits (including a homer) and three runs given up in 1 1/3 innings.

"With Ogando we’re going off what he did two years ago as a starter and that’s what it’s based on, and obviously you hope that he’ll show the consistency that he had the first part of the season that year in 2011 and that he’ll hold up over the course of the year," Ryan said. "In that position, you’re going to expect him to accumulate innings.

"With Derek, the area of concern is the fact of his inconsistencies. So, yeah, both of those guys are going to need to take their game to another level."

Overall, Ryan is curious to see how it all shakes out. But he's confident the Rangers can be contenders.

"I think we’re going to be very competitive," Ryan said. "Sitting here today I think we’re going to compete for the division."