Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy is welcoming word that star first baseman Todd Helton plans to play at least one more year.
Helton had season-ending surgery on Aug. 10 to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.
Helton told The Denver Post that he intends to return in 2013 to play out the final year of his contract. He turned 39 last month.
The five-time All-Star is a lifetime .320 hitter, but batted a career-low .238 in 69 games.
”Todd Helton knows himself better than anybody and if he feels physically that he’s capable of doing it, then there’s a big part of me that says he will be bound and determined to walk back out here and have another bounce-back season,” Tracy said Wednesday.
”I just saw him this afternoon, and he’s moving around with just a tremendous amount of vitality,” Tracy said. ”You can tell by the way he’s walking and moving around, he’s pain-free, and he’s in the weight room doing his thing.”
Tracy said it’s likely that Helton would see his everyday role modified next year to include more days off.
”It’s not going to be to the extent of 145 games from this guy or something like that,” Tracy said. ”There’s going to have be rest in between and things like that. But if in fact we can develop that type of framework and he’s physically up to par with where he wants to be, I don’t question Todd Helton for one minute, because I’ve already seen him beat naysayers.”
Tracy was referring to Helton’s 2009 campaign, when he came back strong to hit .325 with 15 home runs in 151 games after struggling with back problems the year before, when he hit .264 with seven home runs in 83 games.
Helton told the Post that he understands that he’ll play fewer games in a season for his own good, but also doesn’t see himself as a part-time player.
”I will have to have ample days off. I know that,” Helton told the newspaper. ”If I come back, I expect to play as much as I can. How much? It’s hard to tell.”
Tracy said it was premature to address that question. He said he’ll sit down with Helton as he always does when the team heads into spring training.
”We’ll have that conversation when the time comes,” Tracy said. ”I don’t want him to worry about it. I just want him to do his rehab work and get himself to where he feels he physically needs to be.”
”I think it’s more important for him to be allowed to have his space and do his thing and we get to spring training and we sit like he and I do every year and we assess as to where he’s at and what it is that he would be able take on. I wouldn’t really even want to get into that today because I really have no idea,” he said.