Outfielder Woody Cliffords always has had a knack for getting on base. Following three years of steady progression through the Baltimore Orioles farm system, however, the 23-year-old is simply trying to get back to basics.
After earning spots on the South Atlantic and Carolina League all-star teams the past two years, Cliffords, who began this season at Class AA Bowie, is working to regain his stroke following his recent demotion to Class A Frederick.
"You've just got to make the best of it," said Cliffords, who last season posted a lofty .390 on-base percentage for the Keys. "I'm just going to come down here and play hard. . . . If you're feeling good, you can hit anywhere."
The West Hills, Calif., native has proven that throughout his brief career.
As a junior at Pepperdine University in 2001, he was named first-team All-West Coast Conference after batting .336 with 23 doubles and 25 stolen bases. The performance helped convince the Orioles to draft him in the 10th round that June.
He had impressed Orioles officials with his consistency at the plate in his first three seasons, setting career highs in average (.282), doubles (29), home runs (eight), RBI (44), walks (71) and stolen bases (16) in 2003.
During spring training this year, however, Cliffords "tweaked" his back and was forced to miss a week of games.
"I kind of went up to Bowie not feeling great to begin with," he said. "I played hard and battled, but didn't have a lot of luck going my way. The numbers don't lie."
With the Baysox, he batted just .234 through 26 games and was sent down to Frederick on May 12.
"I didn't feel great up there -- I didn't feel right," said Cliffords, who is batting .273 through his first six games back with the Keys. " So what I want to do down here is get myself feeling back to where I know I can be."