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Rangers press on despite Ryan's uncertainty

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As far as general manager Jon Daniels is concerned, he still reports to Nolan Ryan.

"From a reporting structure, nothing has changed," Daniels said. "We're focused on trying to put a team together and get the team ready for the season."

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That was the goal coming into camp, but now the focus has completely changed and is squarely on Ryan's future with the organization. Ryan still has not addressed the matter, but there has been speculation -- as first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- that he could step down as Rangers chief executive officer as early as the end of Spring Training.

The biggest concern for Ryan, according to sources, is making sure he continues to have a meaningful role in the organization and not be reduced to a ceremonial position. That is the core issue that needs to be resolved.

Ryan, originally hired by former owner Tom Hicks, has been the team president for the past five years and has been in complete charge of every day-to-day aspect of the organization. He added the title of CEO in 2011 after the Rangers were sold to the current ownership group led by Ray Davis and Bob Simpson.

Last Friday, the Rangers announced that Daniels was being given the title of president of baseball operations and Rick George would be president of business operations. That left Ryan with the title of chief executive officer. What has been left unclear is what day-to-day responsibilities remain with Ryan and what has been transferred to Daniels and George.

If Ryan feels his responsibilities have been reduced too much, he may feel it's time to step down completely.

"He didn't express that to me," Daniels said Wednesday morning. "We've spoken every day since then. Nolan has been straightforward. He said he has no issues with me. We continue to discuss matters pertaining to the club."

Ryan was at Wednesday's game, watching the Rangers' 3-2 victory over the Cubs from his front-row seat next to the dugout. He declined to be interviewed.

Daniels said the situation needs to be resolved at some point.

"Yeah, distractions don't benefit anyone," Daniels said. "I don't think it's a distraction to the players, but you don't like it when you're talking about anything other than baseball. That's not time well spent."

Ryan is still in Surprise with the Rangers and otherwise everything was business as usual for the Rangers. They had a "B" game with the Cubs on Wednesday morning and the regular Cactus League game against them in the afternoon.

The "B" game was held on what has been named "Nolan Ryan Field."

"We've gone through stuff like the sale of the club and the bankruptcy, and this stuff doesn't distract the players in the clubhouse on a day-to-day basis," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I really don't know what's going on. I don't know where the communication breakdown is but whatever the owners or the front office is going to do to make us run smoother, I'm all for it."

The Rangers appear to have been running fairly smoothly for the past three years. They have made the playoffs three straight years and been to two World Series. They have a lucrative new local television contract coming up in the next few years, they set a new attendance record with 3,460,280 fans last season and they continue to make significant renovations to the Ballpark in Arlington.

But there is no doubt that if Ryan leaves the organization, it could have an immediate and dramatic impact on just about everybody.

"I don't know enough information," outfielder David Murphy said. "Obviously, you always want a guy like Nolan around. He's obviously an asset to the organization. I don't know what he's thinking, all I hear are rumors and things of that sort.

"But you never want to see a guy like Nolan walk away from the organization."

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.

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