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Tampa Bay Rays make official signing of pitcher Roberto Hernandez

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Published Dec. 19, 2012

The Rays haven't decided whether newly acquired right-hander Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, will be a starter or reliever next season.

But executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the 32-year-old will compete for a rotation spot during spring training and, either way, "help us get meaningful outs."

The Times reported last week the sides were close on a deal, and it was officially announced Tuesday, with the former All-Star receiving $3.25 million plus $1.825 million in incentives.

"We feel like this is one of those risk-reward stories that makes a lot of sense for us," Friedman said. "Upside is really compelling."

Hernandez has shown promise in his seven big-league seasons, all with the Indians, finishing fourth in the American League Cy Young race in 2007 (19-8, 3.06 ERA) and earning an All-Star selection in 2010. But he is trying to re-establish his career — and his name — after a controversial and unproductive 2012 season.

He began the year on the restricted list after a false identity arrest in his native Dominican Republic. It was learned that his real name is Roberto Hernandez, not Carmona which he had used since becoming a pro, and that he was 3 years older than he had listed. He didn't make it back to the United States until July and served a three-week suspension, making three starts (0-3, 7.53) before suffering a season-ending ankle sprain Aug. 27. The Indians declined his $6 million option.

Said Friedman: "Obviously, last year was a lost year for him in a lot of respects."

He said they have no issues with Hernandez's makeup, having talked with his former coaches and teammates, and believe he will fit in "extremely well" in the clubhouse.

Where Hernandez fits on the pitching staff remains to be seen. But with the Rays recently trading James Shields and Wade Davis, Friedman said accounting for the lost innings was "very much on our mind."

Hernandez could provide depth at the back end of the rotation, an experienced starter who has pitched 200-plus innings twice. A sinkerball pitcher with a high ground ball rate, Hernandez could also be a weapon out of the bullpen. Both scenarios appeared in play during negotiations, since Hernandez has incentives for both innings pitched (up to $1.25 million) and relief appearances (up to $600,000).

Hernandez hasn't made a relief appearance since his 2006 rookie season. Friedman said they'll stretch him out as a starter in spring training and, at the end, see what "makes sense."

"This guy has got really good stuff," Friedman said. "We feel he has the repertoire to get out right-handed and left-handed hitters. … It gives us a chance to add to our pitching depth, which is something that is a focus for us in a way that it hasn't been in recent years."

Around the nation

NEW YORK — R.A. Dickey picked up his phone on Saturday, and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told the NL Cy Young Award winner he had 72 hours to negotiate a contract with the Blue Jays.

"Okay, here we go. I probably am never going to be a Met again," Dickey remembered thinking. "I think I had a wash of just numbness come over me, really."

A day after he was traded to Toronto and finalized a $30 million, three-year contract, the knuckleballer, 38, talked about his exit from New York after three seasons that revived his career and made him a fan favorite. And he discussed the stimulation he will get from joining a contender.

"I think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York," he said. "I had a proverbial home there. I had a home among fans. I had a home in an organization. I had a lot of success there, and I think it's important for me to be sad about that for a moment before I move on to the next feeling."

That next feeling is glee about joining the amped-up Blue Jays, who have added five All-Stars during the offseason, with Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera preceding Dickey north.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of an organization that's committed to winning and putting a product on the field that the fans can be excited about," Dickey said.

INDIANS WOO SWISHER: Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was among a group who had lunch with free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher, who played baseball for the Buckeyes, on his visit with Cleveland.

GIANTS: Right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla completed a $15 million, three-year contract.

PHILLIES: Left-hander John Lannan finalized a $2.5 million, one-year deal.

TWINS: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey agreed to terms on a $4 million, one-year contract.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.