C.J. Wilson considers himself the right man for the role of Rangers' closer.

The left-hander converted 12 of his 14 saves opportunities, while holding opposing hitters to a .208 batting average as a closer in 2007.

"I had the best success ratio of converted saves last year, so that's what I'm feeling good about," Wilson told texasrangers.com. "Plus, mentally, I think the front office and the coaches understand that I've got one of those unique, weird, hair-on-fire, heavy-metal personalities, and that I enjoy the lunacy of being in the bullpen and being a closer."

This past week, the Rangers have signed Japanese pitcher Kazuo Fukumori, who has experience as a closer in the Pacific League. Wilson, however, didn't let the signing get to him and looks forward to proving himself this spring.

"I want to be the closer, regardless of who the competition is," Wilson said. "I was prepared to try to beat everybody out anyways, and have a good season and be a good closer for a long time. ... In the bullpen, we run together, we work out together, we throw food at each other, we tend to buddy up. And that makes the process easier to root for each other. The stronger our bullpen is from top to bottom, the better our team will be."

Astros make an offer to Prior: In their quest to add more starting pitching depth to the organization, the Houston Astros have made an offer to Mark Prior, formerly of the Chicago Cubs. Prior is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of last season and will likely keep him out until May.

The Astros are just one of many teams to show an interest in the 27-year-old right-hander.

"The feedback we're getting from [agent] John Boggs is there are multiple teams involved [in the bidding]," general manager Ed Wade told Astros.com. "He's outlined the framework for what it would take. I don't know that it's going to move at any pace at this point.

"He's not even throwing at this stage. We get some sense he'll be ready sometime late in May. Any kind of proposal would reflect that level of uncertainty. Hopefully, we'll have five starters hitting on all cylinders, but it's always good to have other options you can turn to."

Benson puts on strong showing for nine teams: Free-agent pitcher Kris Benson got the attention of several scouts on Monday, throwing 60 pitches for nine teams -- including the Philadelphia Phillies. The side session came after Benson missed the 2007 season due to surgery on his right shoulder.

"All the comments I received [from scouts] were very, very positive," Benson's agent, Gregg Clifton, told the Philadelphia Daily News. "My experience with scouts is that if they didn't like what they saw, they might say nothing. They might say, 'Thanks for the opportunity to watch him pitch.' But everything they said afterward was very complimentary."

In seven seasons with the Pirates, Mets and Orioles, Benson has 68 career victories and an ERA of 4.34.

"For the right team, like the Phillies, it's a great opportunity," said Clifton. "He's a seasoned Major League veteran who's battled this injury for the last couple seasons prior to '07. He sucked it up and pitched, so '08 could be a tremendous year for him because he's finally healthy. ... There's not a lot of long-term risk, either. And great potential upside."

And according to Clifton, everything looked good.

"I think he most importantly showed he was free and easy," he said. "He had good arm extension and a good arm angle. Normally after a guy has shoulder surgery, the thing you worry about is guys tend to push the ball because they can't get the arm elevated. He had great elevation and a good downward movement on his pitches. Those were a couple of the comments that I received."

Robertson wants long-term deal with Tigers: Nate Robertson, who is eligible to become a free agent after the 2009 season, is interested in working on a deal that would extend his current contract now -- not down the road.

Robertson's agent, Steve Canter, said this week that Robertson would like to sign a long-term contract with the team this winter.

"He wants to stay in Detroit and play for the Tigers," Robertson's agent, Steve Canter, told the Detroit Free Press. "He appreciates everything they've done for him and his family.

"He's a proven guy in big games. He finished strong this year. If you look at what he's done career-wise, it's pretty significant."

Robertson won nine games last season in 30 starts, including five quality starts in his last eight outings.

Cubs sign top Frontier League pitcher: Pitcher Tanner Watson, who spent last season with the Rockford RiverHawks of the Frontier League, has been signed to a Minor League contract by the Chicago Cubs for 2008.

"It's nice, after the two years playing independent baseball to get back to affiliated, to get a shot for spring," Watson, who was a 19th-round Draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2000, told the Rockford Register Star.

Watson was 11-3 last season with a 2.17 ERA. He struck out 77 while walking just 31 in 104 innings.

"We're glad to see him move up and on, but it's a big loss at the same time, because he was the best pitcher in the Frontier League last year," said RiverHawks Director of Baseball Operations Dave Ciarrachi. "It's a great opportunity for him, and hopefully, he's able to take advantage of it."

Astros add pitcher Cassel to the mix: The Houston Astros signed right-hander Jack Cassel to a one-year contract, giving the team another pitcher to compete for a starting job. Cassel formerly played for the San Diego Padres and was 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in six games for them last season, including four starts.

In 24 starts at Triple-A Portland, he was 7-14 with a 3.91 ERA with three complete games.

"He's a sinkerball guy, he pounds the strike zone," general manager Ed Wade told Astros.com. "He had an opportunity in September and pitched well for them. He has an opportunity to come into a setting where we're inviting competition, and we'll see where his skills go. He had a couple of clubs interested in signing him, and he viewed our opportunity as favorable."

Wells not too far from getting in some swings: Nearly three months after having surgery on his left shoulder, Vernon Wells is scheduled to start lightly swinging the bat next week. Wells expects to be fully recovered by the time the 2008 season begins.

"It's getting better. It's still a work in progress," Wells, speaking from his home in Texas, told bluejays.com. "Slowly, but surely, I'm getting ready to go for Spring Training. I absolutely expect to be ready. I'm ready to, obviously, do a little better than I did this past season."

Slowed by his injury last season, Wells hit only .245 with 16 home runs and 80 RBIs in 149 games. In 2006, he hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs in 154 games. Wells actually hurt his shoulder in 2006 but tried not to tell anyone about it.

Wells finally revealed the injury this past August and tried to play through it. The Blue Jays finally shut him down and surgery was performed on Sept. 25.

During the operation, Dr. James Andrews wasn't able to remove a cyst due to its close proximity to nerves in his arm, but the surgeon was able to successfully decompress the cyst.

"They said it was in somewhat of a dangerous spot," Wells told MLB.com, "because it was surrounded by nerves. Once they got in there, they were going to be able to see if they were able to decompress it. They got in there and found a way to do it. Everything went perfectly."

Floyd gives Rays depth at right field, DH: The Tampa Bay Rays added a left-handed bat to their lineup by finalizing a deal with Cliff Floyd. The deal is for one year with a club option for 2009. Floyd will likely rotate between right field and designated hitter with Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes, who are both right-handed hitters.

"We're excited to add someone of Cliff's ability to the organization," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told raysbaseball.com. "We were looking for a left-handed bat to compliment our existing players, and we're comfortable that Cliff will fit in very nicely to the DH/right field rotation."

In 108 games for the Cubs last season, Floyd hit .284 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs. For his career, he is .279 hitter with 222 home runs and 826 RBIs in 15 seasons.

Floyd said he like the direction the team is currently headed.

"This is a team to reckon with," Floyd said, "because these guys are getting better and better each year. That's all you can ask. They've gotten better, they're in a position where they're tired of what's going on, and I believe with the way things have changed and what I've seen, to me they're ready to win now."

-- Red Line Editorial