Ryan, baseball's first million-dollar player, realizes the game has changed. Players are averaging nearly $3 million a year. The industry is generating nearly $7 billion. And agents are loathe to let their clients throw 300 innings.
Still, Ryan is determined to change the pitching philosophy in Texas. He would love to confiscate every pitch counter used by coaches. It drives him batty when he watches pitchers being pulled from games because their pitch count hits 110 or 120.
"We have to change this mindset," says Ryan. "Some of the guys have been on a pitch count since Little League. It should be tailored to the individual.
"These pitchers have to realize what their capabilities are, and build up their stamina. I remember it used to be that 300 innings was the benchmark for an ace. If you were a starter, you were expected to pitch at least 250 innings. Now, you may have one guy go 200 innings on your whole staff.
"That's why you see 12, 13 pitchers on every team.."
Ryan expressed these sentiments to the Rangers front office and coaching staff. He may be a softy at heart and always a gentleman, but when the boss talks, you better listen.
"He made suggestions along those lines about pitch counts," Rangers manager Ron Washington says. "So we're trying to keep them out there as long as they can. We have to be smart monitoring what they're doing, but if you got the horses, you can let them go a bit."
There was a moderate difference in the first three weeks. The Rangers' rotation averaged 96.3 pitches per game and lasted 5.93 innings per start. A year ago, they averaged 81.2 pitches and 5.44 innings.
Rangers ace Kevin Millwood became the first Ranger in nearly two years to throw a complete game. It was April 5 vs. the Los Angeles Angels, albeit an eight-inning effort in a 2-1 loss. The starters have thrown at least 100 pitches in eight games.
"I love it," Millwood says. "It seems like they've let me go a little longer than I did in the past. I'm not going to jeopardize the game just to be a tough guy, but I can tell you when I'm tired and when I'm not.
"But what (Ryan) did, I don't see anyone doing anything like that again."
Ryan, who threw the fifth-most innings in baseball history, told the Rangers' executives and coaches how critical conditioning was to his career. He would not only routinely throw batting practice to his teammates, but would do wind sprints after each 10-minute interval, lasting about 30 minutes.
"Obviously, he's got strong feelings about pitching," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels says, "and we were able to incorporate some of the things Nolan did into our farm system. We've encouraged a lot of our (minor league) managers and pitching coaches that they have the flexibility to let their pitchers go past 100 pitches. We're not going to call down there (and complain) as long as they're not putting the pitchers at risk. We're having our young pitchers throw live batting practice, too."
So they're running wind sprints between BP sessions, too?
"Uh, baby steps," Daniels says. "We don't want to shock these guys too much."