ST. PETERSBURG -- After missing the past two seasons due to injuries, Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell Jr. has begun throwing, hoping that this is the last time he has to rehab before finally getting back on the mound.
“Everything is going well,” Honeywell said. “Got no complaints. Just knocking the rust off a little bit.”
Returning to full health has been a long journey for Honeywell. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training in 2018, and thus he was forced to miss the entire season. Then, as he continued to rehab, Honeywell fractured a bone in his right elbow as he threw a bullpen session in the Rays’ Spring Training facility.
The fractured bone ended Honeywell’s season, forcing the Rays’ No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, to miss his second consecutive season. Now, the 24-year-old will enter Spring Training working his way back from injury yet again.
“You feel for the kid,” said Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder. “With all the things that he’s had very limited control over, I trust that this is going to be something that he comes out on the other end with positives.”
Honeywell has been playing catch over the past couple of weeks, and he has been throwing from 60 feet. Next week, he’s scheduled to move up to 75 feet, which will put his progression ahead of where he was at this time last season.
“Coming back from TJ [surgery], I ran into the nerve issue, but I think we got those under control,” Honeywell said. “I’m feeling really good about where I’m at. I don’t think I felt all the way back from Tommy John. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t right, but there were a couple things that I was missing during that time.”
Honeywell and the Rays are focused on not rushing the process, and instead making sure he’s fully healthy before trotting him back out on the mound. Honeywell, who had never undergone surgeries before the 2018 season, said he has learned a lot more about his body and will continue to take things slowly.
“[Friday] was the second time I played catch,” Honeywell said. “It’s feeling better each time. Nowhere near the lengthy progression of Tommy John, which I’m happy about, but then again, I've got to take my time here. I've got to get myself right.”
A challenge for the Rays will be to find a plan that helps Honeywell progress properly. Snyder mentioned former prospect Neil Wagner as someone that had a similar case within the organization, but there aren’t enough to use as reference. Despite that, Tampa Bay remains high on the talented prospect.
“He’s certainly on the right track,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Just a lot of praise for Brent. The training staff have talked about how hard he’s worked. Sometimes these injuries can really make you change as a person or mature [quicker]. It seems like Brent has done that, because he’s worked so hard to get to this point.”
Honeywell knows that there is still a long road ahead of him, but he remains confident in his ability. He says he has “no doubt” that he will make his Major League debut at some point during the 2020 season.
“I think when you’ve wanted to do something for 25 years, you don’t really have a choice,” Honeywell said. “I have a lot of people at home counting on me. I have my family counting on me. I have a whole bunch of people counting on me, and I couldn’t do it without them. I think everybody that has been along the way with me, I’ve needed you guys, so I appreciate it.”