Joe Maddon watches Roberto Hernandez pitch this spring, and the Rays manager feels like he's back in 2007.

Back then, Hernandez was known as Fausto Carmona, one of the best young right-handers in the game. His slider was unhittable and his future seemed limitless.

"He's even better than I remembered," Maddon said Tuesday morning before the Rays' game against the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.

When told afterward of Maddon's comments, Hernandez said, "That's what I need."

The Rays could certainly use a little retro Roberto this season, what with innings-eater James Shields now with the Kansas City Royals and Wade Davis, who was included in the same trade, now a member of the Royals rotation and not the long man in the Rays bullpen.

Hernandez, who aged three years before the 2012 season when officials with the U.S. Consulate in the Dominican Republic realized he had falsified his identity, will fill one of those two roles this season.

He is battling Jeff Niemann for the final spot in the rotation, with the runner-up headed to the bullpen as the long man. Hernandez last worked out of the bullpen in 2006, his first year in the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians.

He twice pitched more than 200 innings in a season, with the last time being 2010 when he threw 2101/3 innings. The first was in 2007, when Hernandez pitched 215 innings, was 19-8 and placed fourth in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

Hernandez signed with the Rays as a free agent on Dec. 18, 2012, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay him $3.25 million this season with a $1.25 million incentive for innings pitched and a $600,000 incentive for relief appearances.