O's prospect Connaughton still focusing on basketball

O's prospect Connaughton still focusing on basketball

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Manager Buck Showalter said before Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park that the team would give pitching prospect Pat Connaughton time to relax before he reported to camp. But the two-sport star, who also plays for the Notre Dame basketball team that was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night, may not return to baseball any time soon.

Shortly after Showalter spoke, word spread that Connaughton told WEEI in Boston that, at the moment, basketball remains his priority right now.

"It is something that I'm going to play day-by-day," Connaughton said. "Right now, I have an opportunity with basketball ahead of me. I've put myself in a position where, as a kid, I always dreamed of it. I think baseball for me is always something I loved to do and something that I was always a little bit better at. I'm not going to explore basketball recklessly. I'm still going to make sure I have a realistic opportunity before I explore the options. As of right now, I'm going to explore basketball and see what happens and see how baseball plays out afterwards."

Connaughton said that he's not planning on pitching for the Orioles this summer. He made his pro debut with short-season Class A Aberdeen in 2014 and pitched 14 2/3 innings with a fastball that hit 96 miles an hour. He was drafted in the fourth round last year and signed for $428,100.

"As of right now I'm not," he said. "Depends on basketball. I very well could be. It's a unique opportunity. Not many guys on a professional baseball roster have the ability to pursue another professional sport. I want to make sure that I at least seek out that bridge and cross it before I burn it. So kids in this day and age know you don't have to necessarily specialize in one sport, no matter how much society and your coaches are pushing you toward that."

Showalter had made it clear earlier in the day that the organization had planned to reach out to him within the next few days.

"We're not going to pressure him, push him," Showalter explained. "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. Once he gets here, he's got to turn the page."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.