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Honeywell on mend, excited about 2019

Rays prospect recovering from Tommy John, keeping expectations in check
MLB.com @juanctoribio

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays won 90 games in 2018 and, to a degree, had a successful season, the club was unable to reach the postseason for the fourth straight season. As Brent Honeywell watched the team play, he couldn't help but think, "What if?"

"I think every day, what would've been the difference if I was there," Honeywell told the media Friday. "That's just the way I think. That's just the way I go about this game. I want to win as soon as possible. I'm going to do everything in my power to win games as soon as possible."

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Rays won 90 games in 2018 and, to a degree, had a successful season, the club was unable to reach the postseason for the fourth straight season. As Brent Honeywell watched the team play, he couldn't help but think, "What if?"

"I think every day, what would've been the difference if I was there," Honeywell told the media Friday. "That's just the way I think. That's just the way I go about this game. I want to win as soon as possible. I'm going to do everything in my power to win games as soon as possible."

Honeywell, the organization's top pitching prospect and the No. 28 prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, was one of several players in attendance for a voluntary workout at Tropicana Field. He has spent most of his offseason at the stadium as he continues to rehab from the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2018 season.

It's been 11 months since the injury, and Honeywell said he's in better shape heading into 2019 and he hasn't suffered any setbacks during rehab.

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"Everything is going good," the 23-year-old said. "Main thing is, I can't look too far ahead. I don't want to get behind, but at the same time, I don't want to do something to counteract everything I've done the last 11 months."

Over the last three weeks, Honeywell has been throwing his fastball, changeup and screwball and has been able to ramp it up a little more each time out. His progression is coming along and while the Rays hope to get Honeywell back sometime around June or July, they won't rush the right-hander as he projects to be a key piece of the team's rotation for the next couple of seasons.

Tweet from @juanctoribio: #Rays pitchers Yonny Chirinos (left) and Brent Honeywell (right) getting some work in today pic.twitter.com/1Up9L5qtPM

"Obviously with the prospect status and everything he has done in the Minor Leagues with the Rays up to this point, he's a special case," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "We're going to do everything we can to make sure that we temper some of those expectations."

Before suffering the injury last spring, Honeywell was projected to make a contribution at the big league level in 2018. He flashed his strikeout potential at Triple-A, striking out 152 batters in 123 2/3 innings of work.

When healthy, Honeywell has the potential to help a Rays rotation that will be headlined by Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. It's a rotation that, when fully healthy, Honeywell believes could be the best in baseball.

"It's going to be the best in baseball. We have a Cy Young winner on our team. Two of them," he said, referring to Snell and potentially Morton. "We're close. We're close."

Other Rays injury notes
Jose De Leon, who also suffered a torn UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery during last year's Spring Training, is on a similar schedule with Honeywell. The 26-year-old Puerto Rican right-hander is hoping to be pitching in Minor League games by May.

"I don't want to get too much ahead," he said Friday. "But I'm 26, and I'll be 27 this year, so the time is now. I feel really good. Today has been the best day I've felt so far."

Wilmer Font, who was acquired from Oakland in May, began throwing bullpen sessions last week. Font suffered a lat strain during his June 29 start against the Astros. Originally, the expected recovery time was two months, but Font continued to feel discomfort and went to New York to see a specialist. He was told that no surgery would be needed, but that the recovery was going to take some time.

Font began throwing bullpen sessions last week and has been limited to just his fastball. However, he said Friday that the plan is to start throwing his changeup next week and be 100 percent when Spring Training begins on Feb. 13.

"Physically, I feel excellent," Font said, in Spanish. "I've been throwing bullpens without any discomfort. I'm just working out over here five days a week."

Video: NYY@TB: Font strikes out Judge in the 1st

• Catcher Michael Perez, who suffered a left hamstring injury on Aug. 28 that ended his season, played a couple of winter ball games in his home country of Puerto Rico. He was in attendance for Friday's workout and said he's "completely" ready to go for Spring Training. Perez projects as the backup catcher behind newly acquired Mike Zunino.

Other players in attendance for Friday's workout included Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos and Glasnow.

Tropicana Field going cash-free in 2019
On Friday, the Rays announced that, in partnership with hospitality partner Levy and tech firm E15, Tropicana Field will become the first cash-free sports venue in North America.

The concessions, team stores and box offices will operate cash-free. Forms of payment accepted at concession stands and retail stores inside the ballpark will include major credit cards, Rays gift cards, NFC mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and Season Ticket Holder Rays Cards. 

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brent Honeywell