Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

How to humble Rays prospect Brent Honeywell Jr.

Hint: It’s going to take more than Tommy John surgery and starting this season in Port Charlotte. A lot more.
Brent Honeywell Jr. (59) could become the second player from his high school in Royston, Ga., to make the majors. The other: Tyrus Raymond Cobb. TAILYR IRVINE | Times
Published Feb. 22
Updated Feb. 22

PORT CHARLOTTE — Standing in the Rays clubhouse, Brent Honeywell Jr. pulled his sweatshirt up enough for you to see the scar on the inside of his right elbow, his pitching arm.

Friday, the opening of the Rays’ spring training schedule, also was an anniversary. It marked one year to the day since the deliciously confident Honeywell and his can’t-miss future threw his very first live batting practice at spring training. He made about 10 pitches. Then he threw a fastball as if he was trying to throw 10 fastballs at once. Something blew. Honeywell let out a scream and a curse. His 2018 was done.

“I knew right then I wasn’t making the team,” Honeywell said. “If I could have gotten through that one, no telling what would have happened. I think I would have made the team last year. I don’t think they would have had a choice. That was my intention. That’s my intention every time I step on a field.”

Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament wiped out a season that seemed destined to include 6-2, 195-pound Honeywell’s major league debut and the beginning of his ascension to being Rays Cy Young winner Blake Snell’s wing man. Instead, no mid-90s fastballs, no breaking balls, no screwballs, no nothing, just a year on the shelf. It gnawed at Honeywell.

“Not to take a shot at anyone else, but the missing piece that I saw was they needed an extra guy, an extra starter,” he said. “I was hurt. They won 90 games, they played really well the last month and the month before. If this didn’t happen, if this didn’t happen at all, hopefully I’d have been helping them win a hundred games.”

That’s tall talk coming from someone who has yet to throw a pitch in the majors. But Honeywell, who turns 24 next month, is still rated one of the Rays’ top prospects, also one of the top prospects in baseball, even after the injury, which taught him there’s no rushing back. Boy, he hated that.

“You can’t not be patient with something like this,” Honeywell said. “But, no, I’m not a patient guy.”

The Rays insist that they have seen some patience from Honeywell.

“Brent has worked very hard,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s chomping at the bit to play, to get on the field, but I think we’ve seen a more mature mindset. For him to say ‘these guys know more than I do, they’ve experienced this,’ shows that he’s come a long way with the injury.”

The plan is to keep Honeywell in Port Charlotte when the Rays break for the regular season. He currently throws every Tuesday and Friday. He’ll build up his endurance, get up to four or five innings, then head to Triple-A Durham and see what happens.

“If he’s healthy, if he gets his feet under him, he’s a traditional starter,” Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder said.

“I’m not trying to get there for myself,” Honeywell said. “I don’t play this game for myself. I play it because we’ve got a clubhouse full of guys who want to win a championship. One day, hopefully one day I wrap a gold jacket around myself. I want to win a Cy Young. I want to do that.”

Honeywell began playing baseball when he was 3. He could become the second player from his high school in Royston, Ga., to make the majors. The other: Tyrus Raymond Cobb.

Honeywell’s father, Brent Sr., pitched three seasons in the Pirates organization. While playing for St. Leo University, senior learned the screwball from the St. Leo coach, former screwball closer Mike Marshall. He passed it on to his son, who says he has the game in his blood. He’d like to manage someday.

“If someone doesn’t take pride in what they do, it’s a problem,” Honeywell said. “It’s my pride, man. This is all I wanted to do growing up. I didn’t want to be a fireman. I didn’t want to be a police officer. That stuff’s hard. This isn’t hard. This stuff is easy.”

It can’t be any easier than Snell made it look during his Cy Young season.

“The biggest thing with that guy is it’s just power on power,” Honeywell said. “There is no art to it. He’s just blowing it by you. He’s better than you. There it is. It’s simple. This game is not complicated. That’s how guys stand out. I want to be the guy who stands out amongst everybody else.”

Honeywell is driven, consumed. It can be annoying, or misunderstood, as he says it was after his back and forth with then Rays veteran ace Chis Archer last spring. The gist from Honeywell’s end: You do your job and I’ll do mine.

“Half of what you read was me and Archer supposedly getting ticked off and fighting with each other, which wasn’t like that,” Honeywell said. “It wasn’t a throw down. I spoke first. He spoke second. It got all twisted around. Me and Archer are good friends. I’ve got no problem with the dude. I wish he was still on the team.”

Snell, for one, says he’ll love it when Honeywell joins the Rays, whenever that is, and brings his confidence.

“It’s healthy for him,” Snell said. “That’s what keeps his motor going, that’s what makes him believe in himself. I played with him in Triple-A about a month and a half. He was my favorite guy by far. We’d go at in the clubhouse, not arguing, just pushing each other.”

Snell added, “This is just the start. That man’s a beast. I’m telling you, he’s going to come up and make some noise. He’s a guy with confidence. That’s what you need. You can’t be like ‘Oh, hopefully I get my shot.’”

This is the portion of the column where Brent Honeywell Jr. talks about the last year being humbling.

He’ll pass.

“Humbling? Why? I was angry. You want to humble me? Beat me.”

Read more:

Ten things to watch from the Rays this spring

Why Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt is joining the Rays crew

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Jose Altuve prepares to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman leaves the field after giving up a walkoff two-run homer to the Astros second baseman in the ninth inning to win Game 6 of the AL Championship Series 6-4 on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Astros win the series 4-2 and advance to the World Series to play the Washington Nationals. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    New York ties the ALCS Game 6 in the top of the ninth with a two-run HR before the diminutive second baseman wins it with a blast off Aroldis Chapman, putting Houston in the World Series.
  2. In 1968, slugger Frank Howard, known as the "Washington Monument," proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Washington Senators. AP
    The Nationals’ improbable postseason run rekindles memories of the woeful Washington Senators
  3. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
  4. The Astros’ George Springer signals foul, but the delirious crowd in the rightfield stands at Yankee Stadium knows better as the ball hit by Aaron Hicks caroms off the foul pole for a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, New York slugs two home runs in the bottom half of the inning and cuts the series lead to 3-2. Game 6 is tonight in Houston.
  5. An emotional CC Sabathia is helped off the field during the eighth inning in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series against the Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. The 39-year-old left-hander injures his pitching shoulder and is taken off the Yankees' postseason roster, thus ending his 19-year major-league career. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    The 39-year-old left-hander is taken off New York’s playoff roster, thus ending his 19-year big-league career.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) and right wing Luke Witkowski (28) celebrate with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after the Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ELISE AMENDOLA  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: There was bad news Thursday in the Tampa Bay penalty box, for USF’s Blake Barnett, for the Yankees and the NFL’s reigning MVP.
  7. Astros manager A.J. Hinch answers questions during a news conference before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    A.J. Finch calls the accusations, including one of his team signaling by whistling, a “joke.”
  8. Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez raises the NLCS trophy after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to win the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    They’re easy to like, familiar-looking and also connected to Montreal. Most importantly, they’re not the Astros or Yankees.
  9. Nationals aces Max Scherzer, left, and Stephen Strasburg have gone a combined 5-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 42 innings this postseason. Sweeping the Cardinals in the NLCS also means they will get an extra week of rest before the World Series. ANDREW HARNIK | AP Photo ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    John Romano: In the age of computer models and number crunching, Washington reached the World Series the old-fashioned way. With a pair of proven starting pitchers.
  10. A rainout likely clears the way for the Yankees to pitch Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday. MATT SLOCUM  |  AP
    Northeast expected to be hit by powerful coastal storm known as ‘Bomb Cyclone.’
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement