FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It had been nearly six months since Joe Crede had stepped into the batter's box during a live game.

But when Crede returned to the field on Friday, making his Twins debut as the designated hitter against the Yankees, he said there was only one big difference from that last plate appearance.

And no, it wasn't the new jersey that he was wearing. It was the condition of his back.

"From the way I felt toward the end of the year to the way I feel now, it's a 180-degree difference," Crede said in reference to the back problems that limited him to just 39 plate appearances for the White Sox in the second half of last season. "I mean, to be able to go out there and play and swing pain-free, it's definitely a great feeling."

Crede went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first game with the Twins. But for Crede, it was just an opportunity to get in some swings and to work on getting his timing back at the plate.

"I thought it went well," Crede said. "Once you get out there with the crowd and everything, you know you're going to have some nerves. That's another battle you fight. But it was good to get out there and see some pitches."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that he plans to take it easy with Crede for the early part of the Grapefruit League schedule. The plan is to use Crede again as the DH in his next contest, and also to keep his road trips to a minimum so that Crede can avoid the long bus trips.

Eventually Crede will make his debut at third base for Minnesota, but Gardenhire said the team is just going day by day to see how Crede is feeling.

"I think he still feels a little better right now DHing," Gardenhire said. "He does all the defensive work. He does it all. But right now, I think he wants to get some swings in and take it easy with the other part."

As far as Gardenire is concerned, there is no rush on his end to see Crede play third either.

"Crede is a good player. We know that," Gardenhire said. "We've seen him on the field against us so many times. Right now, it's just about getting him ready and getting through spring."