DENVER (AP) – Todd Helton’s worst season of his career is over.
The Colorado Rockies said their first baseman and clubhouse leader will undergo arthroscopic surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.
“I think the world of this man,” manager Jim Tracy said Monday before the start of a three-game series in Los Angeles. “I’ve been privileged over the course of 11 years to have managed some very special people. This guy is arguably as good a competitor as I’ve ever been around.”
The Rockies placed Helton on the 15-day disabled list and reinstated infielder Chris Nelson from the 15-day DL. Nelson, who missed 17 games because of an irregular heartbeat, was in the starting line at second base and batting seventh.
“It’s sad, man,” Nelson said. “The guy brings a lot of experience, with the batting titles and the Gold Gloves. If you have any kind of questions, you just stop over at his locker and ask him, and he’ll give you his honest opinion. That’s one of the great things about him.
“I didn’t know he was having surgery until yesterday. He’s hurting pretty bad, so I’m glad he’s having the surgery so that he can get back with us next year. When I asked him about it, he said: ‘Things happen, and you’ve just got to deal with it.’ The whole team’s down about it, but we’ve got to keep trying to win games,” he said.
A career .320 hitter, Helton batted just .238 this season, by far the lowest average of his 15-year career in the majors. He had seven homers and 37 RBIs.
Helton has been bothered by a sore hip since early June, which has affected his mechanics. He struggled moving to his right on ground balls and lifting his right leg at the plate, messing up his timing. But his teammates have seen firsthand how much he wants to be in the lineup, and those leadership qualities only echo what Tracy has been saying about him during the four seasons they’ve been together.
“I’ll take it a step further,” Tracy said. “How about the impact he’s had on the game? Todd’s leadership comes in a little different vein. It comes by example. Todd’s leadership is a bunch of young players looking at him over the course of 15 years and saying: “There he is again. He’s out there today, and he’s a little bit sore. But he wants in there.’ That’s who he is. That’s why you gain the respect for a player like this.”
Helton, who turns 39 on Aug. 20, missed a dozen games in July because of his injured hip. He told The Denver Post he plans on playing next season, the final year of his contract. And his manager isn’t betting against it.
“I think Todd has every intention of playing next year,” Tracy said. “He had a bad year in 2010 when he was dealing with a back issue, and there were a lot of questions about how much gas Todd Helton had left in his tank. And I can tell you, it wasn’t greatly appreciated. So Todd showed up on a mission in 2011 and hit over .300.
“So questioning Todd Helton’s bounce-back ability is not something that I spend a whole lot of time doing, because the preparation and commitment to do so will be there. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And if that is his intent, I guarantee you he’ll follow through with it.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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