© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

04/23/08 8:05 PM ET

Productive Crede handled with care

Guillen plans rest for third baseman during trip to turf stadiums

CHICAGO -- Joe Crede's offensive numbers through 19 games already stand impressively enough alone.

Entering Wednesday, he ranked third in the American League with 19 RBIs, compared to the 22 he amassed over 47 total games in 2007. He sat third in slugging percentage at .582 and remained tied for third with five home runs.

Yes, those statistics have meant a great deal to the White Sox early success, with Crede having played all but one game. They make up only one small reason, though, as to why manager Ozzie Guillen has been more impressed with Crede than he expected this season.

"I never expected him to play every day without complaining," said Guillen of Crede, referring to complaining about possible lingering pain from last year's back surgery. "He never complains to me, even in Spring Training or during the season, when I play him day games after night games.

"There also are so many good things Joe Crede does for the team defensively, and it's unbelievable. I cannot be more pleased with what he does."

On Crede's end, the biggest reason to smile stems from the ability to play healthy. Crede still does a daily maintenance program for his back, and he readily admits that he won't perform at exactly 100 percent.

Being at a point where he doesn't have to think about his back, which was a constant source of pain last year, allows Crede to return to basic baseball needs. It also gives him a chance to play a large share of the upcoming 24 games in 25 days coming for the South Siders after Wednesday.

"It's not affecting me," Crede said. "I still feel it, but any time it interferes with you on the field, you have to take a step back.

"That's where the back problem was before surgery. But now, it has reached a point where I don't think about it. It's nice to go out and just worry about the on-field stuff."

Guillen does plan to be careful with Crede during next week's five-game road trip to Minnesota and Toronto, with both stadium surfaces featuring artificial turf. He also briefly halted his pregame praise of Crede on Wednesday for fear of contributing to agent Scott Boras' multiyear contract information packet.

Then again, Crede's ability speaks for itself.

"Scott Boras will hear me and put this in the contract --'Look at what Ozzie says when he talks about Crede,'" said Guillen with a laugh. "I don't get nothing from that.

"To me, he's the best third baseman in the league right now. Maybe Michael Lowell is close to him. I talk about third basemen. I don't talk about hitting. I talk about the game. And Joe is what he is."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.