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Helton won't play every day in possible final year

The SportsXchange

Don't expect Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, 39, to spice up spring training by announcing this will be his final season. That's likely to be the case, but if Helton is indeed embarking on a farewell tour in 2013, it will not be an official one.

He won't receive gifts in pregame ceremonies when he makes what is expected to be his final stop in an opposing ballpark.

Fanfare is not something Helton has sought, so there will be no change as he approaches his 40th birthday in August. He began his professional career after the Rockies drafted him eighth overall in 1995, and he has played only for the Rockies since he made his big-league debut in August 1997.

Helton had season-ending surgery last August to repair a labrum tear in his right hip. The hip began to bother Helton during the first week in June and limited him to just 69 games in 2012. He hit a career-low .238 last year with 16 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBI.

"My bat speed's still there," Helton said. "It's just not there every day. If I'm sore, I don't have youth on my side to be able to get loose. It's still there; it's just not consistently there as much."

In November, Helton underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

After playing in a rain-shortened game the night of March 8, Helton came to work the following morning with soreness in the knee. He didn't play the next two days.

Manager Walt Weiss, a former teammate of Helton, has said Helton would be his starting first baseman. The veteran is more of a doubles hitter than home run hitter these days but still has the ability to make pitchers work by fouling off pitches and grinding out at-bats. Defensively, Helton is still very good and a much better option than the alternatives at first base -- Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin and Jordan Pacheco. And while Helton wants to play as much as he can, he has come to see the value of rest, so he isn't going to argue with Weiss over playing time.

"What I realized, especially this spring, is when you take a day off, it's just amazing how well your body feels the next day," Helton said. "Taking that into the season, I have to realize that and go from there."

Assuming he stays healthy, Helton is likely to start 100 to 110 games. Dante Bichette, the Rockies' new hitting coach and a teammate of Helton from 1997-99, said, "Todd's swing looks the same as when I left him. ... Of course, he's 39, but I feel like he's got a big year in front of him and can finish strong."
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