Todd Helton lands on DL with stiff back, pulled hamstring

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Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who is sitting on two homers and 16 RBI halfway through the season, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with back and hamstring issues prior to Wednesday’s game.
The Rockies called up quad-A slugger Brad Eldred to replace him on the roster and included him in the lineup for Wednesday’s game aganst the Rockies.
Helton, who has dealt with chronic back troubles for years, is believed to have injured the leg in batting practice last week. He had three straight two-hit games against the Red Sox from June 22-24, but he was just 3-for-22 since. He was without an extra-base hit since homering on June 15.
While Helton has been a mainstay in the Colorado lineup for 13 years now, the Rockies don’t lack for options in replacing him. The 29-year-old Eldred was hitting .267/.323/.575 with 22 homers in Triple-A, and while Colorado Springs is noted for being a great hitting environment, he was performing just as well on the road as at home.
Jason Giambi, who is batting .237/.385/.387 in limited action this season, also figures to see considerable action against righties. A straight platoon is unlikely, though. While Eldred is a right-handed hitter, he was actually performing much better against righties in Triple-A.
The Rockies also have Brad Hawpe and Chris Iannetta as alternatives. Hawpe, while strictly an outfielder as a major leaguer, started his pro career as a first baseman and got a refresher course at the position this spring. Playing him at first would make it easier to get the suddenly red-hot Dexter Fowler into the lineup against righties.
Iannetta is another who has never played first in the majors. However, he has worked out at the position and he got in an inning at third base during Tuesday’s game. He’s gone 7-for-19 with three homers and two doubles in his last five games.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.