Pat Connaughton, the former Orioles draft pick who just completed his rookie season in the NBA, will be working out at extended spring training this week in Sarasota, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Monday.
His appearance in Florida doesn't appear to alter Connaughton's desired career path to attempt to play both baseball and basketball professionally. He had planned to participate in the NBA's summer league to help establish himself heading into his second year with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Connaughton, a widely regarded pitching prospect, has long expressed his desire to be a two-sport professional athlete. He was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round in 2014 out of Notre Dame and pitched six games for short-season Aberdeen that season before returning to college to play basketball for his senior season with the Fighting Irish.
He was drafted in the second round by the Brooklyn Nets, then immediately traded to the Trail Blazers, but Connaughton played sparingly as a rookie, averaging just 4.2 minutes a game. He averaged 1.1 points per game as a rookie.
Despite not playing professional baseball in nearly two years, Connaughton said he still hopes to work his way up the Orioles' minor league ladder. He said his decision to pursue basketball first was based on timing – he told The Sun in January that he wanted to play basketball now because he believed youth and athleticism were on his side – but has kept throwing to keep his arm fresh and strong.
This coming year would appear to help dictate Connaughton's basketball future. He signed a three-year contract with Portland, but only the first two years are guaranteed. If Connaughton doesn't play a bigger role this coming season, he and the Blazers could go their separate ways.
Meanwhile, the Orioles control his baseball rights through 2020, and they could extend that for six more years if they placed him on the major league roster.
The Orioles gave Connaughton a $428,000 signing bonus after drafting him in 2014. Despite the belief by some in the organization that money should have been recouped when he joined the NBA, the Orioles have not attempted to get his bonus back as a good-faith notion that he will eventually return to the diamond.
MASNSports.com first reported that Connaughton was working out at extended spring training.