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White Sox 3B Brent Morel hopes to escape fate of Joe Crede

Joe Crede’s back ruined him Brent Morel (above) already is having issues. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Joe Crede’s back ruined him, and Brent Morel (above) already is having issues. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 2, 2012 10:07AM

At this point last season, young White Sox third baseman Brent Morel would have embraced the comparisons to Joe Crede and worn them like a badge.

Defensively, Crede’s glove work at the hot corner was part-ballet, part-stunt show.

For Morel to even be mentioned in the same breath was high praise, the ultimate compliment.

Now it’s feeling more like a curse.

Every dive to his left to protect the line, every throw across his body to first base added to the toll on Crede, who left the Sox for Minnesota as a free agent after the 2008 season. We were all witnesses to his climb in becoming an elite third baseman. Then we all sat and watched the sad, five-year deterioration in which back problems ended his career.

So excuse Morel these days if he can’t help but have the rise and fall of Crede on his mind, especially since he was put on the 15-day disabled list with what the Sox called a lumbar back strain.

Translation: Uh-oh.

‘‘It’s just kind of a little bulged disc, just kind of get that separation back so it’s not so much bone-on-bone,’’ Morel said of the injury. ‘‘Give it a little time.’’

As he was giving that description, Morel’s cell phone dropped in his locker. Watching him bend over to get it and place it back on the shelf was painful in itself. Give it a little time?

Morel, 25, said doctors have told him surgery is not being weighed as an option yet. He admitted he’s not just forgetting Crede’s back issues.

‘‘It’s true — it’s going to be in the back of my mind a little bit, but hopefully I won’t have to cross that bridge,’’ Morel said.

Besides, there’s another bridge he’s still trying to cross. Morel’s situation is complicated; details are murky about a condition that started as a mysterious loss of weight.

According to a Sox source, Morel was having issues since the spring with keeping weight on and was feeling lethargic at times, raising a red flag about what was initially thought to be Crohn’s disease. After that was ruled out, there was concern he might have to undergo surgery on his intestine. Celiac disease was thrown around.

Morel didn’t want to go into too many details about his issue but said that as of Tuesday, the plan involves a change of diet.

‘‘It’s not celiac disease, but it’s just a sensitivity to wheat,’’ he said. ‘‘I have to eat gluten-free, but actually I finally have been able to keep [some weight] on. I went into spring training at 220, and I’m back up to 215 right now. For right now, I just have to have a gluten-free diet, and so far it seems to be OK as we go forward.’’

The hope is that they can go forward. Morel, like Gordon Beckham, Addison Reed and Dayan Viciedo, represents the future. With A.J. Pierzynski and Jake Peavy both likely free agents after this season, and Paul Konerko joining them after 2013, the Sox need Morel to be good.

As far as third basemen in the system go, Morel’s it. And he already has back issues at one year younger than Crede was when his back began to betray him.

Crede’s problems started in 2004 with a herniated disc in his lower back. Over the next three seasons, he averaged 142 games, fighting through the pain. From 2007 to 2009, he played an average of 78 games a season. The back pain won.

Morel said he’s being told by doctors that ‘‘they’re pretty confident that doing some different chiropractic stuff, giving it this time, that it should heal up.’’

Crede used the same kind of language in ’04.

Brent Morel, the next Joe Crede?

Let’s hope not.

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