Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Old Faithful Honeycutt, 42, Talks Good Game - and He Is Pitching One, Too

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Old Faithful Honeycutt, 42, Talks Good Game - and He Is Pitching One, Too

Article excerpt

In a year when Bob Dole is hoping to become president and Carl Lewis jumped to Olympic gold, is it any wonder Rick Honeycutt is one of the first faces the Cardinals seek when they need a little relief?

a Honeycutt is 42, the oldest player in the big leagues. He was around before Rotisserie League baseball, before Cal Ripken Jr. had played one big-league game much less more than 2,200 in a row. Honeycutt predates the Colorado Rockies and Camden Yards and goofy mascots.

Honeycutt sounds old for a big-leaguer.

"Some days I do feel old," Honeycutt said. "Some days are worse than others."

But most days . . . "The game keeps you young," he said. "I still get a thrill out of competing every day."

Honeycutt recently endured a rough stretch, but he still seems up to the competition. He has appeared in 46 games. Only 27 other National League pitchers have worked more often. Only 22 other middle relievers in the NL have worked at least 20 games with an earned-run average better than Honeycutt's 3.60.

"Too often, people overlook that middle reliever," Honeycutt said. "When they notice him, they look at the failure. They don't look at all the times he's succeeded."

Recently, Honeycutt allowed a run four times in a span of six outings. Since then, he's give up just one run in his last four appearances. Before the difficulties, he had been scored upon just twice in 26 games.

When Honeycutt and his bullpen mates fare well, so do the Cardinals. But it's easy to take Honeycutt for granted when manager Tony La Russa might call on him to get just five or six outs every week.

"I don't do it," La Russa said. "But if you're not careful, fans can and even teammates can take a guy like him for granted."

Cardinals pitchers have learned to appreciate Honeycutt, and for more than he gives the ballclub when he takes the mound.

Dave Duncan is the team's official pitching coach. Honeycutt unofficially is a key assistant.

"I never had a veteran lefthanded relief pitcher on any team with me," seasoned lefty Tony Fossas said. "He's the first guy like that, and he cares how I do."

Honeycutt shows that regard frequently to pitchers throughout the staff. When the subject of pitching comes up, he's more than willing to discuss it. And the subject, naturally, comes up.

Talking about pitching is a way of life in the bullpen. Relievers spend several hours a night together there. Lefthanders will ask fellow lefthanders about pitching to certain batters. Honeycutt will ask one pitcher with a particularly nasty pitch how he throws it.

But his fellow pitchers frequently gravitate to Honeycutt.

He and Duncan started talking pitching and mechanics in depth when they were in Oakland. Often, if Duncan had questions about what a lefthander might do or should do, he'd go to Honeycutt to discuss them. …

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