MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Brent Honeywell Jr. made his anticipated big league debut with Tampa Bay last season, reaching the majors after years of injuries and rehab work.
Now he wants more — with the Oakland Athletics.
Honeywell, once considered a top pitching prospect, was traded to Oakland for cash in November. The right-hander spent much of last year with Triple-A Durham, but he made three April appearances with the Rays.
“It was special,” Honeywell said Sunday of his big league debut. “It’s tough to say (how special it was). When I take the mound with no reins — that is going to be a different feeling. It was more refreshing to see someone with another jersey on; something I hadn’t done in three years. It was a game that counted, and I hadn’t been in one in three years.
“The No. 1 thing I noticed was my thought process was that this is the next step.”
Honeywell, who turns 27 on March 31, was selected by Tampa Bay in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft. He had no record and an 8.31 ERA in those three games with the Rays.
But the results weren’t as important to him as standing on the mound after he had his career slowed by elbow injuries and Tommy John surgery.
“I never really got to a low point,” he said. “I wouldn’t change nothing. The training staff of Tampa was great. They got me back on the field and it was up to me to throw the ball.
“You have to keep the negative thoughts out of there. It’s hard but you have to do it. It’s the drive I have to play this game and share the clubhouse with these guys. I’ll give everything I got every fifth day or whatever they need.”
Honeywell is healthy again and looking to make the A’s, who traded right-hander Chris Bassitt to the Mets on Saturday.
“We would like to build him up, and in his case, individually we see him as a starter,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “He’s got an opportunity to earn a spot on this club. The process will take place over the next 18 days and throughout the year.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Honeywell has a five-pitch repertoire, with a slider, curveball, and screwball to go along with his fastball and changeup. He is 36-23 with a 3.06 ERA in 110 minor league appearances.
Now he is in spring training with a new organization with the chance to show all of his work was worth it again.
“The last few years I really didn’t look forward to camp,” he said. “It was just another day of rehab. I’d do it all over again if I had to, to get to where I am at. Train hard, work hard and win baseball games is my goal.”
A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, who came back from hip surgery last season, said missing time can wear on players, and he’s ready to see what Honeywell can do.
“I can only imagine how excited he is,” Chapman said. “He said he’s healthy and feeling great. I know he has a great arm so it will be exciting to see what he can do.”
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