ST. PETERSBURG — Pitcher Brent Honeywell is getting back to top form.
The highly touted prospect is throwing well in recovery from February Tommy John elbow surgery with good progress and no setbacks, aiming for a potential big-league debut sometime in June.
And, even better, given supreme self-confidence that pairs with his extreme talent, he is starting to talk a good game again.
On watching the 90-win Rays last year:
“I think every day, what would’ve been the difference if I was there? That just the way that I think. That’s the way I go about this game. I want to win games as soon as possible.’’
On the Rays improving to contender status this season:
“One major piece I think to our rotation is me. Me and my dad talk about it every other week. What if? What if you were there last year? You’re in the playoffs, you’ve got a chance to win 100 games.’’
On the potential of the rotation with him joining 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and veteran free-agent pickup Charlie Morton:
“It’s going to be the best in baseball. I’ll say it. We’ve got a Cy Young winner on our team. Two of ‘em. We’re close. I think Charlie Morton will contend for a Cy Young, too. Everybody that we got, man. Everybody. When this team clicks it’s going to be scary.’’
Honeywell, 23, admitted Friday, during a voluntary team workout at the Trop, that he was trying too hard when he hurt his elbow Feb. 22 throwing to big-league hitters for the first time. “I was trying to make the team out of camp that day,’’ he said.
That lesson, and the need for patience in the final stages of rehab, will test his normal unbridled will.
He is throwing two bullpen sessions a week, using his fastball, changeup and screwball, and eager to increase the workload and intensity.
"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.’’
* RHP Wilmer Font, sidelined June 29 with a severe lat strain after an impressive nine-game run, is recovered and throwing well and will be 100 percent for spring training, managed Kevin Cash said.
* RHP Jose De Leon, who had Tommy John surgery about two weeks after Honeywell, also reported good progress and eagerness to get back on the mound on a similar timetable. “I don’t want to get too much ahead,’’ he said. “But I’m 26; I’ll be 27 this year. So it’s time. The time is now. I feel really good. Today has been the best day I’ve felt so far. That’s my approach.’’
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* Cash said he was pleased with the composition of the team, as the Rays have added INF Yandy Diaz, OF Avasail Garcia, OF Guillermo Heredia, C Mike Zunino and Morton. "You’ve got to be excited,'' he said. "Even without the moves in the off-season we were pretty excited. ... And we’ve made some nice additions that we think are going to fill some big spots, big roles for us.''
* Other players working out at the Trop on Friday included RHP Yonny Chirinos, RHP Tyler Glasnow, C Michael Perez, RHP Ryne Stanek, LHP Ryan Yarbrough, Glasnow looked to be in impressive shape.
* Cash and pitching coach Kyle Snyder were headed to New York later Friday to join Snell at the BBWAA banquet, where he officially will be presented with his Cy Young award.