It was September 3, 2017, Brent Honeywell Jr. took the mound for the Durham Bulls in front of just 3,073 fans at Coolray Field against the Gwinnett Braves. He went 5.1 innings that day, striking out five and giving up no runs. His first strikeout victim of the game was Ronald Acuna Jr., another of the strikeout victims that day was first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo. 16 days later Honeywell took the mound against the Memphis Redbirds and the Bulls won the Triple-A National Championship.
In 2018 the Gwinnett Braves were rebranded the Gwinnett Stripers, Acuna made his big-league debut and won Rookie of the Year, Tuiasosopo was out of affiliated ball and retired after a season in the Indy ball circuit. Meanwhile, Honeywell was out the entire season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in Spring Training and ending up going under the knife for Tommy John Surgery.
Fast forward to April 11, 2021, Acuna is in year three of an eight-year $100 million dollar contract, Tuiasosopo is the manager for that Gwinnett Stripers club, and Honeywell finally made his long-awaited MLB debut against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. There have been 1,316 days between that outing at Coolray Field in 2017, exactly 1,300 since a game that counted, and his debut in 2021, and Honeywell had thrown precisely zero pitches in a regular season game.
1,300 days since he last took the mound, @brent_honeywell threw two perfect innings for the #Rays. pic.twitter.com/qmBLTNtHYb— MLB (@MLB) April 11, 2021
Throughout that time, Honeywell wound up undergoing four separate elbow surgeries and went from the guy with the most talked about pitch among prospects, his plus screwball, and flirting with being a top 10 prospect in all of baseball, to a guy MLB.com has ranked at the 19th ranked prospect in the Rays system.
Still, when he toed the rubber at the Trop on Sunday afternoon, it was truly a goosebump inducing moment for all that had followed his career, and he shut down all six Yankees he faced, two via the strikeout.
Despite only pitching the first two innings of the game, those weren’t without high tension moments. Austin Meadows was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first, Honeywell was asked if he considered taking justice into his own hands, he replied “I think I took justice into my own hands and shut them down for the two (innings) I was able to work.”
The Rays wound up falling 8-4 and Honeywell was optioned back down to the alternate site after the game, but Honeywell has plenty of confidence he will be back, saying “I know I belong here.”