ORONO, Maine — Mike Connolly is a man of many baseball talents.
The challenge these days for University of Maine coach Steve Trimper is to decide how he can best help the team.
Connolly, a sophomore from Middleborough, Mass., has been splitting his time between three positions early in 2012. He has caught, pitched and played some at third base.
“I loved every minute of it,” Connolly said of the southern swing. “I love catching and I love being back on the mound. I like getting around. Hopefully, it sticks.”
Two pitching injuries forced the hand of the UMaine coaching staff. Senior A.J. Bazdanes is out for the season after having Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and classmate Jon Balentina has been sidelined by a sore flexor muscle.
“We’re kind of figuring out how to use him,” Trimper said about Connolly. “He can do a lot of things, but we don’t want to beat him up.”
The Bears have experimented with Connolly’s ability to multitask. He played eight games in the field, starting seven, and made six mound appearances, including one start.
He went 0-2 on the mound with a 9.22 earned run average and leads the staff with 16 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
As a position player, he batted only .182 (4-for-22).
“Being a two-way guy, we need to figure out how much he can handle,” said pitching coach Jason Spaulding. “Can he catch a game and start a game [as a pitcher] in a four-game series or is it more beneficial for us to try to use him a couple innings on a Saturday and one inning on a Sunday?”
The main concern is protecting Connolly’s arm health. Throwing often from behind the plate and then trying to pitch and play some could tax his arm.
For the moment, heading into the Seton Hall’s Rawlings Strike Out Cancer Tournament in New Jersey, Connolly is likely to be part of the pitching plan.
“The way he’s been pitching, I think his role right now is to help us as much as possible on the mound,” Trimper said.
Connolly said he will do whatever is asked of him, but would benefit from some advance planning.
“I talked to coach and a lot of it has to do with mental preparation if we’re going to do that,” said Connolly, who is excited to be back on the mound after not pitching last season.
“This whole pitching thing, we’ve talked about how it came out of the woodwork, but I guess we’re just going to ride it and see how it goes,” he added.