Crede slowly easing his way back

Crede slowly easing his way back

TORONTO -- Joe Crede's back feels good enough for him to be available off the bench for the Twins, but it's not quite to the point where he's ready to start at third base just yet.

Crede was not in the starting lineup for the second straight night after he was activated from the disabled list prior to Tuesday's contest. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that he spoke to Crede on Tuesday and the consensus was that with him coming back from a strained lower back, it's better to ease the third baseman back onto the field.

"I don't look at him as a starting player right now, at least not until he tells me he can do that," Gardenhire said. "Yesterday, I talked with him and he's not thinking [third base] is the best role for him right now. ... We talked about if he dove, how would his back handle that and it probably wouldn't be very good. So we'll try to stay away from that until he feels really, really good and thinks he can do that."

For the time being, Gardenhire said that Crede will be available as a pinch-hitter and also as a possible designated hitter option when the Twins face a left-handed pitcher.

For Crede, it's not exactly the ideal scenario but one that he feels is the best for his back right now.

"It's definitely frustrating," Crede said. "Every baseball player wants to be out there every day and try to help his team win. But at the same time, you have to stay positive through it and just keep your head up and keep plugging away."

That attitude is one that Crede's had to carry throughout this season. When he went on the DL on Aug. 22 with his strained lower back, it was just the latest in a slew of injuries that have sidelined him this season. Crede's history of back trouble was the biggest concern heading into the season, but until this recent DL stint, his back really hadn't been a problem. Instead, it was other unfortunate bumps and bruises that kept him off the field.

Thanks to various freak injuries including a bruised knee from a foul ball, a bruised hand from a hit-by-pitch and a separated AC joint in his shoulder, Crede has played just 88 contests for the Twins this season. It's far less than both Crede and the club had hoped he would play when he signed a one-year deal with Minnesota as a free agent in February.

"We would have loved to have had him play 130, 140 games and see what happened with his numbers, but it just didn't happen," Gardenhire said of Crede, who is batting .229 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs this season.

Crede has never been much of a hitter for average, but his .229 batting average this season is lower than his career .254 mark. Part of that, Gardenhire feels, is a result of Crede never being able to get in a rhythm at the plate due to the numerous injuries.

"He just wasn't able to stay on the field and get consistent swings," Gardenhire said. "There was a time he was feeling really good and swinging really good. Putting some really good swings on the ball and his outs were hard. His defense was unbelievable, just exactly what we envisioned.

"But like I said, through some of those freak things of foul balls off the legs and the crazy injuries, he's been kept off the field. It's hard to get consistent that way and see really what kind of year he could have had."

Crede's year hasn't lived up to his hopes either, but he seems more disappointed by the fact that he wasn't able to help out his team more in its postseason push.

"It'll be a disappointing year if the team doesn't win the division because my No. 1 goal was to be able to go out there and help this team do that," Crede said. "Anything short of that would just be a disappointment. I think that's really how every player should look at it. Everything just falls at the wayside -- personal numbers, etc. -- as long as you go out there and are winning."

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