CHICAGO -- During parts of the past three seasons, Joe Crede has been able to play through the pain where two herniated discs in his lower back were concerned. Play through the pain and thrive, judging his .283 average, 30 home runs and 94 RBIs from the 2006 campaign.

Even when Crede missed three games in late May of this current campaign because of the recurrence of the pain, he viewed the situation with optimism and believed rest would be the needed cure to keep him active. But on Wednesday, Crede appeared to have finally reached a crossroads where his back is concerned.

The 2006 American League Silver Slugger winner at third base met with Dr. Frank Phillips, a back specialist at Rush University Medical Center, after he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Crede was given two options to help correct the problem, with the lesser of the choices being an epidural, at least the fifth since 2004 by Crede's recollection.

A second option presented to Crede was to go and clean up the back problem through surgery, which basically could cost Crede the rest of the 2007 campaign. Any definitive decision made in the next few days would be done so in conjunction with his family, the White Sox and the doctors, which will include Dr. Andrew Dosett in Texas and Dr. Robert Watkins in California -- two more back specialists who will view Crede's case.

Crede elected to bypass microsurgery on his back during the past offseason and instead chose an extensive strengthening program and rehab. The plan seemed to work until Crede left the series finale against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 20. He had two cortisone shots and took anti-inflammatory medication, which masked the pain until this week.

Both Dosett and Phillips recommended the strengthening program when Crede was trying to make the decision this past winter.

"They both really strongly believed that, so we went that route," Crede said. "It's just a matter of it's still flaring up. We just want to rid the problem, that's basically what we want to do.

"Right now, we're basically waiting on the other two opinions to see what they have to say. We're obviously going to weigh all our options and see what the best way to do it is and see what's the fastest way to get back out on the field and feel the way I did before."

Through an MRI done Tuesday and Wednesday's examination, Crede was found to have fluid irritating the sciatic nerves in the back. One of the procedures proposed to correct this issue would involve an instrument that basically looks like a straw being stuck into the area and then the fluid would be removed like a vacuum. Crede would then need one month just to heal and let the area fuse together so more fluid can't leak out.

There also are non-surgical choices, according to Crede, like decompression of the spin. In that instance, Crede explained a machine basically "stretches you out" and the discs act like a suction and suck the fluid back in.

"Is that long term? We don't know," Crede said. "There aren't many studies on the long-term effects. We will get the answer here in a few days and go from there.

"One thing the doctor said to me today is that I would have to address [the back pain] at some point in my lifetime. It might be this year, or five years from now or 10 years from now."

As Crede gathers information, Josh Fields takes over in the interim as the White Sox starting third baseman. The team's top pick from the 2004 First-Year Player Draft was in Wednesday's lineup against the Yankees and Chien-Ming Wang, after having posted a .283 average with Triple-A Charlotte. Fields, 24, also knocked out 10 home runs, 14 doubles and put together a .394 on-base percentage and a .498 slugging percentage.

Fields played 11 games for the White Sox during a September callup last year and homered in his first Major League at-bat against Detroit. He also earned rave reviews from general manager Ken Williams earlier this week, after Williams viewed Fields in action during last week's Minor League fact-finding mission.

Those particular kudos gave Fields thoughts of being able to stay, even if or when Crede returns. But last September's experience also helped Fields feel a little more comfortable as part of the White Sox.

"I feel a lot better, even being in the clubhouse," Fields said. "Being able to tell myself that I've started a few games will help. The weirdest thing last year was seeing my name in the starting lineup.

"And I already walked past it and saw it today, so I handled it well. I've got to be prepared for things like this."

Manager Ozzie Guillen's stance on keeping Fields in the big leagues was very similar to his thoughts on other prospects within the organization. If he is not an everyday player, then Fields is better served back in the Minors.

According to Crede's explanation on Wednesday, though, a decision coming soon regarding how to treat his back might make Fields an everyday player for the foreseeable future -- at least during the 2007 season.

"We're just kind of weighing the options right now," said Crede, who is arbitration-eligible in 2008 and becomes a free agent after the season. "I haven't leaned towards any which way.

"To me, I'm entering a new world. There are so many different opinions on the back issue. There are non-surgical ways to do it, and then there are people who don't believe in the non-surgical way and people who believe in the surgical way. To me, it's amazing all the opinions people have on the subject, and they have strong opinions on it.

"Now, it's just a matter of which one you're going to believe. With getting different and several opinions on it, we're going to try and get a collective agreement on what's going to be the best option to do.

"It gets to the point where it's very uncomfortable," added Crede, 29, who is hitting .216 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 47 games. "It's not to the point where it's absolutely unbearable, but it gets to the point where you don't feel like yourself out there. It's very frustrating."