One of the most intriguing players in Rays camp won’t even get into a game.
But the progress 25-year-old righthander Brent Honeywell Jr. makes will be a major story line now, and in the future.
Not that long ago, Honeywell was one of the game’s most promising pitching prospects, combining a polished and deep arsenal, including a screwball, with a brash cockiness that had him ticketed for stardom.
But Honeywell tore his elbow ligament in the first live batting practice of big league camp in 2018. Resulting Tommy John surgery kept him out for a year.
Then in June of last year, after battling through several delays stemming from nerve issues, Honeywell fractured his elbow throwing a pitch during a bullpen session. As a result, he had a surgery that is much tougher to come back from.
So as Honeywell measures his progress by adding 15 feet to the length at which he can play catch, he heads to Port Charlotte, Fla., not having pitched in a game since the end of the 2017 season, but confident he will make it to the majors this season.
“No doubt,’’ Honeywell said.
”I’ve still got some things to prove and I know that. Coming out of two years of surgery, there’s going to be some bumps in the road. I’m not looking ahead. I’m not searching for the bumps by any means.
“But like I always do, I’m going to try to stay one step ahead of the bumps and try to get the biggest advantage I can into my throwing program, and try to win my throwing program and try to win my way here.”
The track record for pitchers coming off medial epicondyle bone fractures is not extensive nor encouraging, but Honeywell is confident he will make it—and soon. “It’s feeling better each time,’’ he said.
The Rays are pleased with what they’ve seen.
“The training staff have talked about how hard he’s worked,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “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.”
— Breakthrough righthander Joe Ryan was among 15 minor league players invited to big league camp. Also receiving invitations were pitchers Paul Campbell, Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, Sam McWilliams, Phoenix Sanders, Ryan Sherriff, Ryan Thompson and Tyler Zombro; and position players Tristan Gray, Taylor Walls, Brett Sullivan, Dylan Cozens, Dalton Kelly and Miles Mastrobuoni.
— A major overhaul of the minor league coaching staff under vice president of player development Carlos Rodriguez saw the Rays hire six new coaches (three at the coordinator level) from outside the organization, shuffle managers at their four lower-level affiliates and change 12 coaching assignments resulting in completely new coaching staffs for low Class A Bowling Green, short-season Hudson Valley and Rookie-level Princeton.