Could this RHP see the Majors in 2022?

August 18th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ Athletics Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

STOCKTON, Calif. -- Brent Honeywell Jr. hasn’t had the ideal start to his A’s career. Traded from the Rays last November, the right-hander entered Spring Training as a strong candidate to crack Oakland’s starting rotation until an elbow issue in late March shut him down from throwing indefinitely.

On a 100-degree Tuesday afternoon in California’s Central Valley, Honeywell took the mound at Banner Island Ballpark and put himself one step closer to getting back to the big leagues. He tossed a scoreless inning for Single-A Stockton against the Lake Elsinore Storm, marking Honeywell’s first game action since March 24 in the Cactus League.

Honeywell recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless first inning that saw him face four batters and throw nine of 14 pitches for strikes. His fastball reached 95 mph on a swinging strikeout of Padres No. 1 prospect Jackson Merrill and sat mostly 94-95 mph throughout the opening frame. He punctuated the inning with a swinging strikeout of Marcos Castanon on an 85 mph changeup.

“He’s got another outing in Stockton,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay of what’s next for Honeywell. “If that outing goes well, the plan for him is to go to [Triple-A Las] Vegas and continue his progression.”

The A’s can keep Honeywell on his current rehab assignment for up to a 30-day period, giving them until Sept. 16 to decide whether he pitches for the big league club in 2022.

Several factors will go into this decision. First, the A’s must determine what role they’d prefer to use Honeywell in. Building him up to a full starter’s workload might be a long shot this late in the season. However, if the A’s were to utilize Honeywell in a bullpen role -- something Kotsay also mentioned as a possibility -- getting him up to speed as a reliever by September should be no issue.

The bigger obstacle here might be health. With a history of major elbow injuries in recent years, Honeywell has seen promising past rehab stints go awry deep into the process. For now, the A’s remain cautiously optimistic.

“He’s trending in the right direction,” Kotsay said. “We’ve got a calendar to build him up. That timeline is fluid. We’ll continue to assess how he feels -- his recovery, velocities and overall performance, as well -- to determine his role and when and if we bring him back to the big leagues.”

Honeywell, who hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since April 24, 2021, is pleased with the way his pitches are moving right now. By his estimation, he will take the mound for the A’s before season’s end.

“I’ve worked hard,” Honeywell said. “My stuff is a little better than it was, I think. I’ve been getting the reactions I’m looking to get [from hitters] on my stuff. The best thing is my stuff is there.”