- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SURPRISE, ARIZ. (AP) - Confidence never has been an issue for C.J. Wilson. So it comes as no surprise that the one person who knew the Texas left-hander would succeed as a starter last year was Wilson himself.

Wilson is now set to be the opening-day starter for the AL champions, Rangers manager Ron Washington announced Tuesday.

“If there’s one thing he’s not lacking,” Washington said, “”it’s confidence.”

A year after Wilson made the switch from the bullpen to the rotation and then led the Rangers with 15 wins, Washington said the plan is for to start April 1 against Boston.

“It’s cool,” Wilson said. “That gives me a chance to make 34 or 35 starts.”

Wilson, who at one time was the Rangers’ closer, went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in a team-high 33 starts during the regular season. His finest moment came in Game 2 of the AL division series when he held Tampa Bay to two hits over 6 1-3 scoreless innings.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Wilson said. “If anything I was a little disappointed I didn’t do better. I had goals for myself that I didn’t reach. But there’s always going to be another opportunity as long as you’re in the game to try and reach the next level you haven’t reached yet.”

Wilson, a fifth-round draft pick in 2001, was primarily a starter in the minor leagues and missed all of the 2004 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

After being called up by the Rangers for the first time in 2005, when he had four stints with the team, Wilson was 0-5 with a 12.05 ERA in six starts. But in 18 appearances out of the bullpen his rookie season, he had a 2.73 ERA over 26 1-3 innings and Texas continued to utilize him as a reliever after that.

With some rotation spots to fill and Wilson’s desire to start, the Rangers gave him that chance last spring _ and he excelled.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I’d never seen him as a starter,” Washington said. “I just knew he had savvy. He opened my eyes.”

Wilson saved 24 of 28 chances for Texas in 2008 but had a 6.02 ERA in 50 appearances and 46 1-3 innings before missing most of the final two months of the season after arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow.

The following year he was slated as the team’s eighth-inning setup man, giving way to Frank Francisco, Wilson wound up saving 14 of 18 chances and finished 5-6 record with a 2.81 ERA in 74 games. Then he finally got the chance to be a starter again.

“A lot comes down to having perfect mechanics,” said Wilson, who also will start the Rangers’ exhibition opener Sunday. “Closing, starting, whatever, you finally realize you know how to pitch. You just have to get your brain to do it. Especially for me, ever since the Tommy John surgery, it’s been a matter of trying to get my brain and my body aligned.”

Wilson’s success and longevity in the clubhouse _ only Michael Young has been on the Rangers‘ roster longer _ have helped him develop into a leader. Wilson says his goals for this season are much the same as the ones he had last year.

“I feel these goals take me somewhere,” he said. “They’re taking me in the right direction, I just have to change the way I’m working for them.”

NOTES: The Rangers agreed to terms with seven players, including RHP Tommy Hunter and 1B Mitch Moreland. The others were LHP Matt Harrison, 1B Chris Davis, C Taylor Teagarden and RHPs Fabio Castillo and Wilmer Font. … RHP Brandon Webb threw on flat ground for 17 minutes at up to 200 feet. “It was pretty far for me,” he said. “I had good life on the ball. It was a good day.” … RHP Eric Hurley skipped his bullpen session due to a mild right hamstring strain.

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