TUCSON, Ariz. -- He knocked out 23 home runs and drove home 67 runs in just 373 at-bats last year, totals working out to 37 long balls and 109 RBIs over a full season.
Those statistics, on a team finishing 18 games under .500, even were good enough to have Josh Fields' name thrown around as one of the top American League rookies for 2007. After all, he led American League first-year players in slugging percentage (.480) and home runs, finishing fourth in extra-base hits (41).
Yet, Fields enters this final week of Spring Training looking as if he's headed back to Triple-A Charlotte for a third time to start the season. It's not anything Fields has done, and especially hasn't done. With veteran Joe Crede healthy and not going anywhere, there just doesn't seem to be a spot for the 25-year-old third baseman at the moment.
Losing out on this starting job to Crede, whose back surgery last June facilitated Fields' promotion to the Majors, would make the possible final call a little easier to take.
"It would be a little bit different if I came in and it was two young guys battling it out for a job," Fields said. "I'm up against a guy that won the Silver Slugger award [in 2006] and is pretty much defined as a Gold Glove winner.
"If they decide I have to go to Charlotte, it will be a little better accepted rather than being on an even playing field with a younger guy. It will be hard regardless."
The toughest roster decision for general manager Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox front office comes at third base. Fields started slowly with the bat this spring, focusing primarily on extra defensive time at third, just as he did during the offseason.
With his one hit on Sunday, Fields raised his Cactus League average to .268. Fields has done everything asked of him and then some to be ready for the 2008 season, making the talk that could be coming Tuesday slightly tougher to handle.
That talk is not something Fields entertains presently.
"I'm preparing to play in Chicago," Fields said. "Until they come to me and say, 'Hey, you are going back to Charlotte,' I'm not going to think about, 'What if I have to go back there and face Triple-A pitchers?'
"Ultimately, it's their decision and I have to live with it. Wherever they decide I'm going, I'll have to go. If I have to go back to Triple-A, then I will have to go down and hit and work on my defense. If I go down and stink for the first month, they might be like, 'OK, he needs to stay down a little longer.'"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.