Manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles won't be putting the full-court pressure on Notre Dame hoops star Pat Connaughton to join the organization any time soon. But once he joins, the Orioles want the right-handed pitcher to focus on baseball.
He's already received his undergraduate degree, so Connaughton could leave school and re-join the Orioles organization whenever he chooses. But he also could try to prepare for the NBA draft or – perhaps more attainable – a pro contract in Europe.
For the past six weeks, Connaughton also been executing a throwing program given to him by the Orioles, according to a club official.
Connaughton on Monday told a Boston radio station, WEEI, that he's prioritizing a basketball career over baseball. As of right now, he said he doesn't plan to report to the Orioles, though he didn't rule it out entirely.
"I'm not going to explore basketball recklessly," said Connaughton, who later added that that opportunity would have to come in the United States, not Europe. "I'm still going to make sure that I have a realistic opportunity before I explore the options, but as of right now, I'm going to explore basketball and then see what happens and see how baseball plays out afterward."
Baseball, he said, was something he was "always a little bit better at," but playing professional basketball has been a dream.
"Not many guys are on a professional baseball roster, but have an ability to pursue another professional sport," Connaughton said. "I want to make sure I at least seek out that bridge and cross it before I burn it. Kids of this day and age know you don't necessarily have to specialize in one sport no matter how much society and your coaches are pushing you towards that."
The Orioles are slated to speak with Connaughton on Tuesday, according to a club source.
"We'd like to have him," Showalter said. "We're not going to pressure him, push him. We want, though, when he decides that it is done, the NBA ain't there, then his full attention comes to baseball instead of coming right to us and then wondering. ...
"He's got to get this out of his system and we are going to let him do it," Showalter said. "Once he gets here he's got to turn the page."
The Orioles are open to Connaughton following his NBA ambitions, which would include giving him the green light to participate in the showcase events and the draft combine leading up to the NBA draft in June.
"There is no immediate urgency to get him here," Orioles player development director Brian Graham said. "We understand he loves basketball. We also know he's a very talented baseball pitcher."
Connaughton was the Orioles' fourth-round pick last season and received the slotted signing bonus of $428,100. He played briefly last year for Short-A Aberdeen, going 0-1 with a 2.51 ERA in six appearances with the Ironbirds.
Connaughton is represented by Sam Samardzija, Jr., who is the older brother of another two-sport star out of Notre Dame, current White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who chose baseball over football.
In other news:
** Before game time Monday, the Orioles had not heard any report on J.J. Hardy's MRA on his left shoulder. If there are no major findings, Hardy could be back with the team by Opening Day, even if he plays in only one more exhibition game, Showalter said.
** Showalter said the Orioles' rotation for the remainder of the spring is as follows: Kevin Gausman vs. Tampa Bay on Tuesday; Chris Tillman in the major league game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday while Bud Norris starts the Triple-A game; Wei-Yin Chen at the Atlanta Braves on Thursday; Miguel Gonzalez versus the Braves in the final spring home game Friday and Ubaldo Jimenez at the Braves on Saturday.
** Showalter said catcher J.P. Arencibia, who had a cortisone shot in his right forearm Monday, should have enough time to recover and could avoid the minor league disabled list. Arencibia was reassigned to minor league camp Monday. The Orioles have 36 players left in big league camp, including three who aren't on the 40-man roster.