Durham Bulls

Hager and Honeywell lead Bulls to win over Indians

Jake Hager’s foot looks fine, and Brent Honeywell’s arm looks as good as it did when he won MVP at the MLB Futures Game last week.

Making his first appearance on the mound since that night in Miami, Honeywell pitched five scoreless innings in Durham’s 5-1 win over Indianapolis.

Honeywell (9-7) struck out five batters and kept a team off the board for the fourth time this season. Before the All-Star break, he blanked Charlotte in six innings, striking out nine. Since then he became the first pitcher ever to win the Futures Game MVP, striking out four batters in two innings. His latest victory ties him for second in the league in wins.

Returning to Durham with a bit more notoriety, the Georgia native didn’t surrender a hit in the first and fifth inning, and one each in the second, third and fourth before retiring for the evening. Winning the MVP didn’t change Honeywell’s big personality much, what it did, according to skipper Jared Sandberg, was give him more confidence.

“You never know how he’s going to come back after the huge outing at the Futures Game and the time off,” Sandberg said. “But I thought he pitched wonderful. He was in control the entire game, good fastball and the change up after that. I thought he pitched very well.”

Honeywell, who said it was great to be back in Durham, admitted he had to shake off some rust early in the game. He could tell from the first inning that he didn’t have his normal stuff, but he contained the Indians through five innings.

“I didn’t try to do anything extra,” Honeywell said. “I just tried to stay within what’s strong and what’s not. I was just knocking some rust off.”

Hager, who spent more than a month on DL with a broken foot, proved his wheels are fine, blasting a two-RBI triple in the second to boost the Bulls, giving them a 3-0 lead. Durham got on the board first when Mike Marjama hit a single and Taylor Featherston scored on a fielder’s choice. An RBI from Johnny Field gave the Bulls a 4-0 lead in the explosive second inning.

Since making his return Hager now has three RBI and one home run after rejoining the team on July 8.

“I’m feeling good, I’m healthy,” Hager said, “It’s good to be back and playing. The foot is feeling great, no issues. I’m seeing the ball well. Tracking pitches was huge for me as I was rehabbing, going in the bullpen and tracking a lot of pitches helped me come back strong.”

The Indians (53-42) got on the board in the seventh, when relief pitcher Chih-Wei Hu walked in a run with the bases loaded. But the tide was turned in the game after the Bulls picked up four runs in the second, jumping all over the Indians early.

“That was a good inning, we got some good base running,” Sandberg said. “Good base running generated some runs and it was good execution by the offense.”

The Bulls (58-37) and Indians wrap up the series Wednesday at the DBAP, beginning at 7:05 p.m. Yonny Chirinos (9-3) will start for Durham, while Nick Kingham (3-5) starts for the Indians.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV