Impact of Tommy John surgery cuts deeply for Brent Honeywell, Rays

Brent Honeywell will be sidelined well into the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. [CHRIS URSO | Times}
Brent Honeywell will be sidelined well into the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. [CHRIS URSO | Times}
Published February 23 2018
Updated February 23 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE – Two things that tell you a lot about Rays cocksure top prospect Brent Honeywell given Friday's crushing news that he indeed tore a ligament in his prized right arm and is headed for Tommy John surgery that will sideline him well into next season:

One, how in recounting how the injury occurred Thursday in his first live batting practice of camp and first outing facing big-league hitters that he was certain they were the best pitches he had ever thrown, pushing 100 mph.

"What I was throwing up there yesterday was some powerful stuff,''  Honeywell said. "That was the most powerful I've ever been throughout seven pitches in my whole career right there. That's what frustrates me the most."

Two, how he in sharing the diagnosis with teammate, good friend and occasional verbal sparring partner Chris Archer showed that he is going to be okay handling the setback and channel his drive into the extensive 15-month rehab.

"The first thing he said was, 'I'm definitely going to throw harder than you now with a new ligament,' " Archer recounted. " "Definitely.' So he's in good spirits, as devastating as it is."

Overall, of course, it was a terrible development for Honeywell and for the Rays, who have had quite the "what next?" opening to camp.

Having pitched well at Triple A, taken an MVP turn at the Futures Game and risen to top-15 prospect status in the industry, Honeywell, 22, was set to make it to the majors and make an impact, at some point this season, even if it wasn't as soon as he would like.

And once the Rays got past whatever self-imposed baseball and business (read: service time) considerations, they were counting on the dynamic right-hander to join their rotation, maybe as soon as mid-May when they'll add a full-time fifth starter.

"It is disappointing,'' Honeywell said. "I don't really know where to go from here except under the knife. I'm looking forward to helping the club whenever I get back.''

Maybe throwing max effort in your first session of the spring wasn't the smartest idea, but that's also typical Honeywell. All out, all the time.

No surprise, he was adamant that doing so in no way caused or even expedited the injury. Nor his admittedly "unconventional" training regimen, warming up with a weighted ball, or repertoire, throwing an occasional screwball.

"Sometimes I think it's the inevitable,''  Honeywell said. "People don't understand that. It's either going to (tear), or it's not.''

He said he knew from the pop he felt and how badly the next pitch felt that he was headed to surgery, well before he got the official word later Thursday from Rays orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton, who did a Tommy John last year on Honeywell's younger brother. After a perfunctory second opinion from noted expert Dr. James Andrews, Honeywell wants to get the surgery done ASAP.

"I want to get the show on the road," he said. "I don't want to be waiting around. … I want to get it done, and I want to be ready to go as quick as possible."

Honeywell will put in the work for the rehab, but the hardest part, given his impatient nature, will be waiting more than a year to throw a meaningful pitch. It likely won't be until after the All-Star break when he's back in top form.

"He's in a good frame of mound now,'' Archer said. "Ten months from now, who knows.''

Teammates Nathan Eovaldi and Jonny Venters, veterans of multiple TJs, have already counseled Honeywell on the process, to use the down time to learn more about his body and the game.

"You've got to accept that it's happening, don't feel sorry for yourself or dwell on what could have been,'' Eovaldi said. "It's almost kind of scary to think how much better he could be coming back from this procedure, learning so much and with him being so young.''

The loss for the Rays is tougher to define. Losing Honeywell, less than a week after trading veteran Jake Odorizzi for a minimal return, certainly dents the now not-quite-so-vaunted starting depth they've been bragging about behind Archer, Blake Snell, Eovaldi and Jake Faria.

Lefty Anthony Banda, acquired Tuesday from Arizona for Steven Souza Jr., would seem to be next in line when they have a need, though Jose De Leon has impressed – thus far – in making up for his terrible 2017. Moving Matt Andriese back out of the bullpen should at least be discussed.

"It does have an effect,'' manager Kevin Cash allowed. "But I don't know how great of an effect because we do feel like we have a lot of depth. I know Brent is different. They're all different, as far as how they're valued and (our)  perspectives of them. It does take a hit. It allows somebody else to step up.''

No matter what, it won't be the same without Honeywell.

Marc Topkin can be reached at Follow @TBTimes_Rays

The Rays got the worst-case news they were dreading, that top prospect Brent Honeywell has a torn UCL and is headed for Tommy John surgery.

Posted by Tampa Bay Times - Sports on Friday, February 23, 2018