Hernandez continues to make strides in return

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His name might be different, but Roberto Hernandez is trying to prove this spring that his stuff is just as good as it used to be.

Hernandez was known to everyone as Fausto Carmona when he established himself with the Indians, finishing fourth in the 2007 American League Cy Young Award voting and going to the All-Star Game in 2010. It was discovered he wasn't Fausto Carmona, but was actually Roberto Heredia Hernandez and was three years older than initially thought. He missed nearly all of 2012 as a result before the Indians declined their option on him for 2013.

In stepped the Rays, signing Hernandez to a one-year deal and throwing him into a competition for a spot at the back end of the rotation. The right-hander made his third outing of the spring on Tuesday against the Twins, allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings while striking out three.

Hernandez cruised through his first two frames against Minnesota, working quickly and doing what he does best: inducing ground balls. He got two ground-ball outs in the fourth, sandwiching a strikeout between them. In the fifth, he issued one of his two walks, but he also struck out one and picked up another ground-ball out.

"He's even better than I had remembered," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "First of all, I didn't know he was that big. He's very strong, he's very big. From the side, you can see the movement on the ball. Combine that with the velocity, he's had a lot of success."

The ground-ball outs are nothing new for Hernandez. He carries a career 58.5 percent ground-ball rate into the 2013 season, according to Fangraphs.com. In that '07 season, it was 64.3.

"He puts the ball on the ground. I'm seeing all that stuff right now," Maddon said. "That's why he's so interesting. I think he's very motivated right now. He likes being here. All those things are positives. It's been fun to watch. He's very interesting."