After missing the last 10 games last summer at Double-A Bowie with an injured left thumb, infielder Greg Miclat was headed to winter ball for more experience and more at-bats.
But after just seven games in Panama, Miclat suffered an injury in the rib cage area that would eventually end his short time at winter ball and lead him back to the United States.
"I had an MRA and it revealed a glute strain," Miclat said by phone recently. "The glute muscle that controls external rotation of the hips. That is what I strained. I can't really pinpoint one play, I just remember it being really tight one day and trying to get the trainer to massage it out. We had a long game that night and the very next day just sitting in a chair was uncomfortable.
"I stayed down there for a week and a half getting treatment, but it's hard to communicate with a trainer that speaks little to no english. Hard to communicate how you feel and feel comfortable that you are getting the right treatment."
So Miclat headed home Nov. 9 to rest the injury. He doesn't expect it to impact his winter workouts much at all. He will head to his Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., winter home in a few weeks to begin gearing up for next year.
"I feel good enough to jump into some stuff (right now) but I don't want to risk re-straining it. I will probably take about two weeks and then hit the ground running," he said.
Miclat hit the ground running often during the 2011 season. He had 50 steals in 53 attempts for an amazing 94 percent success rate. The 50 steals led the Orioles' organization, were second best in the Eastern League and rated as 13th most in all of minor league baseball.
In 120 Baysox games, the 24-year-old Miclat hit .280 with 16 doubles, two homers, 78 runs, a .371 OBP and .719 OPS. A switch-hitter who played second base last year after playing mostly short for the Orioles, he hit .317 against left-handed pitching and .262 against right-handers.
But it's all those steals that got him a lot of attention. After stealing just 12 of 18 bases in 2010 and 41 total in his first three years, he picked up his 50th for Bowie on Aug. 24.
"My 2010 season, the offseason before I had put on a lot of muscle which actually hindered my natural quickness in a way and I didn't run as well," he said. "This last offseason (before 2011) I shed most of that weight off and it definitely helped."
Scouts say there are several players that run with more speed than Miclat, but few showed his smarts and instincts on the bases.
"Sure, I am by no means the fastest guy out there. But you don't have to be the fastest guy to steal bases. I think you take every advantage you can on the field. Study pitchers to take that advantage. Try to steal a catcher's signs. Little things like that can go a long way," Miclat said.
Miclat went 36-for-36 stealing bases until getting thrown out in the second game of a doubleheader at New Britian on July 29 - and even that was tainted a bit. He was on second base getting ready to break for third, when the pitcher wheeled around with a pickoff throw and he got caught out in a rundown.
"It was nice to have," he said of his streak of 36 in a row. "I didn't expect to go perfect on the season. I didn't want to be scared to get caught. I wanted to be able to trust my reads and my instincts. But 36 in a row, that's the first time I've done that."
Miclat was the Orioles' fifth-round pick out of the University of Virginia in 2008. So far, he has played some at every level from the Gulf Coast League through Bowie, but not yet at Triple-A.
Miclat said he was pleased with his progress at Double-A in 2011.
"I feel good. It was my first time playing second base and I feel I improved throughout the season. I was happy with my season and am excited to build on it. Playing multiple positions only makes me more valuable," he said.
"I just have to continue to work on my bat path and making solid contact and continue to get stronger and that (my offense) will continue to improve."
Miclat should take some momentum into next season. After hitting just .241 with Bowie through June, he then hit .333 with 27 steals over his last 53 Baysox games.
There was talk that Miclat possibly would have been a September callup last season if he had not gotten injured. That led to his name surfacing in the discussion as a player to possibly be put on the 40-man roster in advance of the coming Rule 5 draft. But the Orioles added just one player from their minor leauges recently and that was pitching prospect Oliver Drake.
"Oliver had a great season and was deserving. I sent him a text to congratulate him. For me, it was a little disappointing but it doesn't change my focus on a daily basis. I still have a lot of work to do and everyone has to put up numbers to reach the ultimate goal," Miclat said.