Honeywell undergoes ulnar nerve procedure

May 21st, 2020

Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell Jr. underwent a decompression procedure on his right ulnar nerve on Wednesday in Los Angeles, the team formally announced on Thursday.

Honeywell is no stranger to surgeries. His 2018 season ended after undergoing Tommy John surgery and the '19 season was also lost after he suffered a fractured bone in his right elbow during his rehab assignment.

Though Wednesday’s procedure was yet another road block on Honeywell's path to the big leagues, the procedure is very common among pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery. The Rays and Honeywell aren’t concerned about another setback for the right-hander.

“I’ll be okay,” Honeywell told via text message. “Thanks for the best wishes from everyone. But I’ll be okay.”

The procedure done on Honeywell consists of moving the nerve to a location where scar tissue and inflammation no longer irritate the area, creating a more fluent movement around the elbow. Honeywell’s operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who also performed a similar procedure on Mets ace Jacob deGrom in 2016.

Aside from deGrom, Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow, Mets starter Steven Matz and Phillies starter Zack Wheeler are among the pitchers who have undergone the same procedure as Honeywell.

The timetable for a return varies depending on the pitcher, but the average return has been about three months. The Rays, however, are not yet ready to say how long Honeywell will be sidelined. Given Honeywell’s history with injuries, the club will be overly cautious with its No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. In deGrom’s case, for example, he underwent the procedure in September and was 100 percent ready to go for the start of Spring Training.

Honeywell will travel back to Port Charlotte, Fla., and is scheduled to begin strength and mobility exercises on Monday.

Honeywell spent the first four weeks of Spring Training throwing bullpen sessions three times a week, which would likely appear to be the plan for the right-hander once he’s able to return to the mound. Before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Honeywell was projected to begin a rehab assignment in the Minors around May or June.

In the case that Honeywell’s recovery takes a few months, that would likely take away any chance of him pitching in 2020. Even before the procedure, it was unlikely that Honeywell -- who is on the team’s 40-man roster -- would’ve appeared in a big league game this season, even with the potential of rosters expanding upon a return to the field.