Orioles director of player development Brian Graham talked to minor league pitcher Pat Connaughton on Tuesday. Tonight, he told me about that conversation and sounded very much like someone who expects to see Connaughton return to the Orioles. He just doesn’t know exactly when that might be.
In an interview on Boston radio station WEEI Monday, Connaughton said there was a chance he would not report to the Orioles this year. He just completed his senior season on the Notre Dame basketball team and he now wants to see where he stands for the NBA draft. Connaughton helped Notre Dame reach the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight before the Irish lost to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday.
“Talked to him yesterday and we had a real good conversation,” Graham said. “He reiterated what he told me the last time we talked. He loves basketball and he’d like to see where basketball goes and it’s pretty much day-to-day.
“It is not like he’s counting out coming back to baseball this year, it’s just a matter of let’s see how basketball goes. He has some individual workouts and he has some showcases. He has the combine and then the NBA draft. He is just seeing how far basketball can take him.”
Connaughton told Graham he hopes to be invited to the NBA draft combine in May. The two-round NBA draft is set for June 25.
It is just my speculation, but it seems possible that Connaugton could get feedback from teams over the next few weeks indicating he is not an NBA-level player. Were that to happen, he might be back with baseball sooner than it appears right now. He said in the interview Monday that he will not pursue a pro basketball career overseas.
“He didn’t give a timeframe,” Graham said of if and when Connaughton might report to the Orioles this summer. “He reiterated several times to me how much he loves baseball and how much he loves the Orioles. He’s excited about coming back to baseball, but he wants to see basketball through for the time being as well.
“The terminology he used is this is a day-by-day situation. But he said, ‘I absolutely plan on playing baseball.’ He said, ‘I just want to see this basketball thing through right now.’ “
Connaughton was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round last June and signed for a slot bonus of $428,100.
He reported to short-season Single-A Aberdeen and went 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA. In 14 2/3 innings, the right-hander allowed 13 hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts last season. The O’s liked what they saw in that small sample size and his fastball ranged from 91 to as high as 96. Connaughton is rated as the organization’s No. 11 prospect by Baseball America.
The Orioles are supporting Connaughton at the moment as they wait to see when they will see him again on a baseball diamond.
“Right now we are understanding,” Graham said. “I completely understand he loves basketball. He is coming off a huge season and there is a lot of emotion involved.”