PORT CHARLOTTE — Fifteen pitches off a mound inside the enclosed batting cages on a cold Friday morning might not seem like much.
But for Brent Honeywell, the Rays promising pitching prospect coming back from a second elbow surgery, it was basically game day.
"Big day,'' Honeywell said. "I was excited. I got out of it what I thought I should have got out of it, if not more. It was good to be back up there for sure. I felt at home a little bit. I felt like I was in the right place, where I was supposed to be. So it was an exciting day for sure.''
Honeywell, 24, has been sidelined since spring training 2018 (and since September 2017 in games), when he tore the ligament in his elbow in the first live batting practice session of his first big-league camp and needed Tommy John surgery. He was on his way back last summer, having navigated a couple of small setbacks stemming from nerve issues, when he fractured a bone in his elbow and had to undergo another surgery and through another grueling rehab.
Progress has been slow, but steady.
Moving further back as he played catch, then slowly up an incline.
Friday was the first day he got to get back on a top of a mound and let it go — 15 fastballs, "14 strikes,'' and with good command.
"Today was a big, big leap mentally wise,'' he said. "It was good. I was real happy with it.''
Honeywell said he has felt better in this rehab process, unsure the first time how to go through it, and never fully sure he all the way back. On Friday, he said he feels like he is “leaps and bounds” ahead of where he was last time.
There is no official timetable, but if all continues to go well, Honeywell could start pitching in minor-league games sometime in May and work his way back into consideration for a call-up from mid-season on, though knows he has to show he is able to help the team.
Honeywell said he also has benefited from talking with Cubs pitcher Dan Winkler, who sustained a similar injury in 2016 with Atlanta.