NEW YORK -- The White Sox find themselves in search of a big finish to what has been a tremendous year-long effort atop the American League Central.
For Josh Fields, on a purely individual basis, the 2008 campaign can't end quickly enough.
From being sent to Triple-A Charlotte out of Spring Training -- after hitting 23 home runs and driving in 67 for the White Sox in 2007 -- to dealing with a bad right knee for much of this season, this current run has played out quite a bit differently than Fields expected when arriving in Tucson, Ariz., back in February.
"Oh, no doubt," said Fields, sitting at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. "It would have been a lot better if when [Joe] Crede unfortunately did go down, I would have been at full strength and playing good -- kind of like when he went down last year. I could have felt more like a part of the team and helped the team out.
"It just wasn't in the plans this season," Fields added.
A major part of Fields' 2008 struggles dealt with right knee pain, exacerbated by a couple of early-season collisions in the field while playing for Charlotte. He was on the International League disabled list from May 5-12 and from June 16 to July 4.
That problem should be taken care of as soon as the season comes to a close, with Fields scheduled to undergo knee surgery.
"I'm excited to finally know what's going on and get it taken care of," said Fields of the arthroscopic surgery. "I don't know how to explain it because I don't totally understand what the doctors have told me, but they understand what they need to do.
"They can go in take care of it really easily. The recovery is not supposed to be hard at all."
Fields, 25, entered Tuesday's contest hitting .161 over 31 at-bats with the White Sox. His defense was deemed inconsistent enough at third base by manager Ozzie Guillen and his staff that Fields was replaced by Juan Uribe as the everyday player after Crede went down with back problems.
Without making any excuses, Fields' overall play was hampered by the knee issue. The correction will make his approach to 2009 much stronger physically, and Fields hopes the mental strength will follow.
"Yeah, I don't want to make an excuse, because pretty much everyone is playing hurt," Fields said. "But it has been a physically and mentally tough season. Mentally, the whole season has taken a big toll on me."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.