TUCSON, Ariz. -- Leading off the fifth inning of Tuesday's Cactus League contest against the Padres, Joe Crede pushed a spinning grounder up the middle of the Tucson Electric Park infield.
Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, Crede's infield mate on the White Sox 2005 World Series championship team, roamed to his right, got a glove on the ball but couldn't make the play cleanly on what was an infield single. Two innings later, with A.J. Pierzynski on first, Crede shot a hard grounder toward the mound, which deflected off pitcher Enrique Gonzalez's right hand for his second infield safety of the game.
Those hits marked the fourth and fifth for Crede this spring, covering 37 at-bats, so they look like line drives to the third baseman. But just as Crede wasn't panicked by his low average when asked one week ago, he still realizes the present .135 mark is part of the ongoing on-field recovery process stemming from being away from baseball for eight months.
"Yeah, I can tell I was laid off since June, just the timing out there and stuff," said Crede, before his two-hit effort on Tuesday. "It doesn't quite feel there, but I can definitely feel it's coming along.
"It's definitely getting up to speed, but the biggest thing is finding that comfort level back at the plate and on defense. When you get to that comfort level, you can start working from there."
Crede didn't believe a plan such as the one employed by Jim Thome was needed to help find that comfort zone -- at least, not at this point. Thome stayed back in Minor League camp Monday and led off every inning of a Triple-A contest with Arizona, finishing 4-for-8, with three doubles, a walk and a mammoth home run. Thome will follow the same method while the White Sox are in the Phoenix area Thursday through Saturday.
But the most important factor for Crede continues to be his back feeling strong, following surgery on it last June. He realized
from the outset of Spring Training that the bad was going to come before the good where his offense was concerned.
"Coming in, I knew I would have to be patient with it," Crede said. "You know you are going to fail, but it's just a matter of how fast you are able to adjust and bounce back from it."
"Our hope was to get Crede out in the field every day," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added. "That's what he's been doing without complaint."
As far as this sort of offensive funk carrying over into the regular season, Crede again doesn't seem overly worried. Putting in the required work will help Crede move toward the Silver Slugger status he produced during his last full season in 2006.
"I'm making a lot of progress, even from last week to this week," Crede said. "The biggest thing is going out there and having good at-bats and being aggressive and swinging at good pitches and recognizing pitches early. That's the biggest thing right now, pitch [recognition] and good aggressive at-bats."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.