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

03/31/08 4:17 PM ET

Crede's glove remains key to his value

Third baseman's defensive work important piece of puzzle

CLEVELAND -- The words almost could be heard from White Sox fans around the country, as Joe Crede made a slick pick up of Jason Michaels' hard-hit grounder in the first inning of Monday's season opener.

"That's why we have him at third," so the thought would go.

Of course, that sort of sentiment is meant as no offense to Josh Fields, who has transformed himself into a solid defensive third baseman from personal accounts through those in the know such as manager Ozzie Guillen and bench coach Joey Cora. But it's hard for anyone in baseball at this particular position to match what Crede brings with the glove.

It's an intangible not lost on Crede's teammates or Ken Williams, the architect of this year's White Sox squad.

"When I speak of balance [with the White Sox], I'm talking of the starting pitching staff and the complement of left-handed hitters, right-handed hitters, power hitters and guys that can manufacture on the bases with speed and athleticism, kind of all thrown into one," the White Sox general manager said. "Another component of that, one thing you can do on a day-to-day basis, is play defense.

"There are not too many better than Joe over there," Williams added.

Crede finished Spring Training with a .172 average, along with one home run and two RBIs. But Williams saw some good signs from him with the bat during the final week of Cactus League play.

"Usually, it's the guy who has the worst spring who has the hottest start," said Williams with a laugh. "So, don't be surprised if it happens with [Crede]."

After appearing in just 47 games last season, undergoing season-ending back surgery on June 12, Crede returned happy, and more importantly, healthy for his sixth consecutive Opening Day start at third. As to whether a chance exists for Crede to stretch that streak to seven in 2009, it's not a question remotely troubling Williams at this present time.

"Oh, there's no reason to even deal with that right now," Williams said. "This is Opening Day. Even if I'm asked that question at the All-Star break, there's still no reason to discuss that.

"All we care about now is winning, today and starting every series off with a W," Williams added.

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