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Brent Honeywell Remains On Target

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Righthander Brent Honeywell waited so long, at least by his measure, for the chance to finally face big league hitters.

And then, during that first live batting season early in Rays camp last spring, he nearly threw it all away.

The pain in Honeywell’s right elbow after an admittedly too-intense pitch—"I was trying to make the team out of camp that day,’’ he said—led to a diagnosis of a torn ligament needing Tommy John surgery, which resulted in the Rays' No. 1 prospect missing all of what he expected to be his dazzling rookie season.

As tough as watching his teammates make an unexpected, albeit unsuccessful, bid for the playoffs, Honeywell said the toughest part of his rehab is only now upon him.

"The hardest part is starting to creep up on me now because I’m so close, I can see it,’’ Honeywell said. "I can taste it. I can do everything (except) do it right now.’’

Though the injury exposed his vulnerability, the 24-year-old Honeywell didn’t lose any of the confidence that makes him so good. He is targeting a May or June return to active duty—and eventually that big league debut.

"I think the hardest part about it was seeing what they were doing and the missing piece I was seeing was myself,’’ he said. "To me, if I’m there, I help. If anybody is there, they help.’’

Honeywell’s recovery has proceeded as planned, with with no setbacks. By late January, the 2014 supplemental second-rounder out of Walters State (Tenn.) JC was throwing bullpen sessions twice weekly, using his fastball, changeup and screwball. Rays officials joke, though half seriously, that one of their biggest concerns is holding Honeywell back and making sure he doesn’t try to do too much.

Honeywell, to his credit, acknowledged he is aware.

"Main thing is, I can’t look too far ahead,’’ Honeywell said. "I don’t want to get behind, but at the same time, I don’t want to do something to counter-product everything I’ve done the last 11 months.’’

COOL RAYS

—Righthander Jose De Leon, the onetime Dodgers prospect, is on a similar rehab schedule as Honeywell, having had Tommy John surgery about two weeks later. De Leon also reported good progress with no setbacks and a plan to pitch in rehab games in May.

—Twelve players from the Rays' minor league system were invited to big league camp, including 2018 player of the year Nate Lowe and intriguing reliever Colin Poche, but not Brendan McKay. The two-way prospect taken fourth overall in 2017 played at Class A last year and was sidelined twice by injuries. Others invited include second basemen/outfielders Nick Solak and Kean Wong, shortstops Lucius Fox and Mike Brosseau and Jake Cronenworth; righthanders Mike Franco and Curtis Taylor, catchers Mac James and David Rodriguez and lefthander Dalton Moats.

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