Todd Helton injured his hip in early June and spent two weeks on the disabled list last month before rejoining the lineup, but the Rockies announced that the 38-year-old first baseman will undergo season-ending surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum.
Helton told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he chose to have the surgery now because the recovery timetable is typically six months and he wants to be ready for spring training and plans to play next season.
Helton had a bounceback season last year, hitting .302 with an .850 OPS, but will finish this year hitting just .238 with a .743 OPS in a career-low 69 games. He’ll be paid $5 million next season in the final year of a long-term contract, but as part of the renegotiated deal the Rockies will owe him another $13 million in deferred money to be paid out from 2014-2023.
Colorado selected Helton with the eighth overall pick in the 1995 draft and he’s played his entire 16-season career for the Rockies, hitting .320 with 354 homers in 2,123 games for a .964 OPS that ranks third among active hitters. That includes a .350 batting average and 1.060 OPS at Coors Field, compared to a .289 batting average and .864 OPS on the road.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.