ST. PETERSBURG — The amount of excitement throughout Rays camp was staggering when Brent Honeywell started a March 22 exhibition.
That was the first and only game action for the one-time top prospect since Sept. 19, 2017, at Triple A. He injured his elbow the next spring, had Tommy John surgery and remained sidelined after undergoing three subsequent procedures.
Sunday, Honeywell will make his major-league debut.
The 26-year-old right-hander was called up to replace the injured Chris Archer and will serve as the opener, working an inning or maybe a little more, against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.
The Rays will need to make more moves to fill Archer’s spot in the rotation, which comes up next on Thursday, and boost a bullpen that covered 6⅔ innings Saturday; Josh Fleming and Trevor Richards are the most likely candidates. But Honeywell is lined up to for Sunday, and the limited role, pitching in front of Michael Wacha, is a good fit as he builds up his workload.
When Honeywell worked his inning against the Red Sox in March, he said getting the chance to pitch in a game gave him the “chill bumps” he’d been missing and there was “no doubt” he’d make it to the majors sometime this season.
“I feel like I could’ve pitched in the big leagues last year towards the end,” he said.
And now Sunday, as the Rays will say around the clubhouse, is “Honey Day.”
A new spin
Willy Adames and Randy Arozarena are two of the most expressive Rays, and they showed that again Saturday. As Arozarena returned to the dugout after homering in the third, a 420-foot blast to center, he and Adames faced off like they were DJs at a club. Pretty much. “There’s a song, a Dominican artist (O Mandrake), he’s pretty much talking about the coronavirus,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “We learned a couple verses from the song so when we celebrate, we rap it to each other.”
In assuring a fifth straight series win over the Yankees, the Rays improved to 12-2 in their 14 meetings with a plus-27 run differential (15-4 if you count the AL Division Series). … The Rays shut out the Yankees at the Trop for the third time since July 2018; that hasn’t happened to the Bronx Bombers at any other road park in that span (and only three times at home). … Rightfielder Aaron Judge (sore left side) and third baseman Gio Urshela (reaction to vaccination) returned to the Yankees’ lineup. Saturday starter Domingo German was optioned to the minors after the game.
• Rays outfielder Manuel Margot is expected back in the lineup Sunday against Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery, per manager Kevin Cash, sitting out two games after he “tweaked his groin/quad a little bit.”
• The Rays could have used top starter Tyler Glasnow on Sunday on his normal fifth day, but Cash said it was better to give him the benefit of extra rest, and a Monday start against Texas. The Yankees could have done the same with their ace, Gerrit Cole, but also opted to hold him back for Monday, against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.
• Reliever Hunter Strickland spent the spring and the alternate site workouts living in a 28-foot trailer parked in Port Charlotte. He got called up a bit unexpectedly Friday and for now is commuting until he relocates. “We’ll make it work,” he said. “We’ll figure it out and find a find a place out here.”
• Outgoing Rays communications vice president Dave Haller threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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