Todd Helton is under contract for $5 million in 2013, but there was some uncertainty whether he’d come back following hip and knee surgeries. However, the 39-year-old first baseman told Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post today that he’s ready to return for what will likely be his final season in the majors.
“I am back baby,” Helton said with a laugh. “When you are 39 years old, coming off hip surgery, those things don’t really go good together when you are talking about a baseball player. There was some uncertainty and doubt after last season. But as I got into it, it only fueled my appetite to keep playing and keep getting better.”
Helton underwent season-ending surgery last August to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and then had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in November. But he was motivated to return following a meeting with new manager Walt Weiss last month and recently took batting practice with no issues. While he is projected to be the starting first baseman in 2013, the Rockies will keep an open mind with his health, which means Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin and Jordan Pacheco will all be options to fill in when he needs rest.
Helton batted just .238/.343/.400 with seven home runs, 37 RBI and a .743 OPS in 69 games last season. However, he still owns a fantastic .320/.419/.545 lifetime batting line and a .964 career OPS over 16 major league seasons, all with the Rockies. He should make for an interesting Hall of Fame case, but it might be harder for him to get support that it has been for former teammate Larry Walker, who at least spent six years in Montreal and two in St. Louis.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP