- 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 right-hander would succeed as a starter last year was Wilson himself.

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

It was only a couple of years ago that the 30-year-old was the Rangers’ closer. Last spring training, he offered to make the switch from the bullpen to the rotation if it was in the best interest of the organization.

“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 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 Tuesday. “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.”

For the first time in three years, Wilson’s role on the club was settled heading into spring training. He saved 24 of 28 chances for Texas in 2008 but finished with a 6.02 ERA in 50 appearances and 46 1-3 innings.

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 last season he started in the majors for the first time since 2005, when he had six starts and 18 relief appearances.

“A lot comes down to having perfect mechanics,” said Wilson, who is to start the Rangers’ exhibition opener this weekend. “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 (in 2003), 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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